Edward E. Boccia Nereus Reborn, 1960, oil on canvas triptych, side panels 93 x 25, center panel 93 x 48, Collection of University of St. Louis, Missouri
Edward Boccia’s career as a painter may be poetically referred to as a grand house with many rooms. Some rooms, although elegant, are lived in briefly. Other rooms, made more comfortable by the artist’s personal associations, are occupied for years. No room is permanently closed. The artist moves freely from room to room, constantly borrowing ideas from where he has stayed before. The paintings and drawings in this exhibition are grouped by thematic concerns beginning with character sketches done in France during World War II and ending with a nine-panel painting, Eugene’s Journey (1996) that draws upon all of the artist’s skills as a painter and poet. (Museum of Contemporary Religious Art)
The American painter Edward E. Boccia’s most important works were large-scale, often as multiple panels. The oil on canvas pictures required a rather long process including a laborious building of composition, form, and pigment.
The artist was inspired in part by the traditions of ecclesiastical art, including altarpieces, while inflected with the tone, style and modern pictorial language of artists such as Max Beckmann. Often Boccia’s paintings seem alight with a sacral sense of light, and the eerie shadows and spotlighting of the Surrealist school. This admixture comes together to create an arresting pictorial language that remains quite his own.
This gallery offers a selection of key works by the artist, among them some of the largest and most ambitious works, as well as some of the more disturbing and puzzling pieces.
To see such work in reproduction is certainly no match for witnessing the presence and shocking iconography of Boccia’s work, that dance between desire, images of stigmata, crowded spaces peopled with strange creatures and self portraits, awash in ominous shadows and illuminated areas of paint.
Never the less, it is important to showcase these remarkable pieces in particular, and make images of this artist’s achievements accessible to the public. In many ways this curated galleries expresses the way Boccia saw style, as an ends to a mean, namely the creation of truly mysterious, atelier style painting that had echoes of historic greats, not in terms of formal cues, but in the sense that all art should evoke a sense of the anima, the spirit and soul.
On the occasion of Boccia’s monographic show at the Museum of Contemporary Religious Art in 1996, the elusive and complex nature of Edward Boccia’s practice was summed up beautifully as follows
It is with the open eye of the painter surveying the pivotal movements in 20th-century art that we will see the work by Boccia that touches on Cubism and Surrealism, American Regionalism of the 1930s, German Expressionism of the 1920s, and Neo-Expressionism of the 1970s. For Boccia all rooms are open today, and it is for us to decide where we should linger. Boccia’s career literally spans a lifetime. (MOCRA)
Edward E. Boccia Mystique Marriage, 1979, oil on canvas, triptych, Collection of Jennifer Paternikis, Athens, Greece
Photograph of Boccia’s painting The Wedding Reception, oil on canvas, 55 x 63 in the artist’s studio c.1979
Edward E. Boccia Dark Night of the Soul, 1987, oil on canvas, triptych, Private Collection
Edward E. Boccia Eugene’s Journey, 1996, oil on canvas, 68 x 184, nine panel polyptych, Collection of The Artist Trust
All Rights Reserved, The Edward E. Boccia and Madeleine J. Boccia Artist Trust.