This first critical study of the American artist Edward Boccia (active 1942-2012) will contribute to contemporary art history through the study of an under-recognized figure, situating his place in the history of modernist figurative painting and the field of Italian American fine arts, a significantly under researched area of art history.
This is the first monographic book about this important artist. The book will present previously unpublished full color illustrations of all of the painter’s magnum opus: a series of 22 large scale multi-paneled paintings that resemble the traditional altarpiece format but extend iconographically and stylistically into contemporary language and style. Many of these paintings are privately-owned and or in public collections but are rarely on view because of their size. The chapters will trace the evolution of Boccia’s work and offer thematic discussions of the artist’s place in the history of American modernism, his contemporary altarpieces as expressions of modern religiosity, the legacy of Expressionism as displayed and challenged in his work, and the importance of abstraction in the artist’s practice.
Using a selection of previously unpublished original sources, including artist sketchbooks, dream journals and Boccia’s writing on the role of art in the contemporary life, this book situates the artist in the larger critical discussion of style and practice in mid to late twentieth and early 21st century America, and offers new scholarship on the contributions of the artist while expanding on the critical analysis of the contributions of Italian American visual artists to post war culture.
Developed through thematic chapters outlined below, art historian Rosa JH Berland will examine the complex iconography of the artist’s work while placing Boccia’s practice within the legacy of the mid-century artistic expatriate and American art community at Washington University and in St. Louis. This vibrant community included key figures in post war American art such as art historians and faculty members H.W. Janson & Ken Hudson, painters Max Beckmann, Stephen Greene, and Philip Guston, and the collectors Morton May and Joseph Pulitzer. Boccia was one of May’s most collected contemporary artists, and his recruitment by Hudson followed that of Guston and Beckmann. The development of Boccia’s contemporary practice will be traced and analyzed in this context.
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