Boccia’s 1958 Painting Adam + Eve

Art, American Painting, 20th century Art, Old Testament Art

Boccia’s painting of 1958 Adam and Eve recently sold at auction, truly a lovely very early piece featuring the puzzling yet fascinating motif seen throughout a lifetime of work —the Icarus like falling figure. Interesting fact: The picture won a special prize at show of Old Testament art in 1958.

 

Art, American Painting, 20th century Art, Old Testament Art

 

Art, Contemporary Art, Old Testament, Religious Painting, Contemporary Jewish Art

Newly Discovered Abstract Drawings by Edward Boccia

Edward-Boccia, American-Art, American-Painting, Painting, American-Painters, Modern-Art, Contemporary Art, Ed-Boccia, St-Louis-Artist, WUSTL

Edward Boccia is highly regarded for his synthesis of 20th century aesthetics, including expressionism, and a command of both historic atelier and modernist techniques. This collection of photographs show details of the artist’s abstract work circa 1960. Seen for the time, these images come from a series of private notebooks, journals and sketchbooks and demonstrate the depth and intricacy of detail found in these gestural works.

 

 

 

Selections from exciting new treasury of works will be featured in a upcoming electronic publication organized by Trust and overseen by scholar + curator Rosa JH Berland.

 

Publication date to be announced.

 


All Rights Reserved, The Edward E. Boccia and Madeleine J. Boccia Art Trust.

A Poem in memory of the artist by Alvin Horst….

Edward-Boccia, American-Art, American-Painting, Painting, American-Painters, Modern-Art, Contemporary Art, Ed-Boccia, St-Louis-Artist, WUSTL

September 13, 2012

 

Alvin Horst’s Poem

An Interview about the Artist Edward Boccia on Meural

FROM MEURAL’S Deep Cuts, Episode 6: “Being lost in the color and a sense of beautiful nothingness.” 6.21.17.

 

art, expressionism, st-louis, new-art, contemporary-art, Edward-boccia, rosajhberland, rosa-berland, contemporary-art, oil painting

Edward E. Boccia, Last Supper for Wayne, 1968, oil on canvas, 88 x 55 inches, Collection of St. Louis University Museum of Art, Missouri. Image courtesy of the Edward E. & Madeleine J. Boccia Artist Trust, St. Louis. ©

Today we are speaking with Rosa JH Berland, an art historian, author, and curator. For Deep Cuts, she’ll be discussing Edward E. Boccia, a late American painter and long time professor of fine arts at Washington University, St. Louis. Rosa is currently writing the first critical monograph on the artist in cooperation with the artist’s estate.

How would you describe Boccia’s work to the uninitiated?

I would begin by describing the artist’s career. Edward Boccia was a post war painter born in 1921 who had served in WW II as part of the elite subterfuge unit charged with creating visual distractions to trick the Nazis.

Boccia was from the NYC area, and studied art at Pratt and Columbia and went on to teach in the Bauhaus method, serving as the youngest fine arts dean at the Columbus School of Art. He was recruited by Ken Hudson to join the faculty at Washington University, St. Louis. Hudson was part of a circle in St. Louis that included expatriate artists, modernists, art collectors, teachers, and museum curators such as Perry Rathbone, H.W. Janson, Morton May, and the Pulitzers. Former Hudson recruits included Max Beckmann, Philip Guston, and Stephen Green.

Boccia would go on to teach for over 30 years at the university and his character and high standards of workmanship and artistic fidelity would influence hundreds of students who became artists. I also think it is important to note that the Midwest was full of monumental American painting including the great murals of Thomas Hart Benton. In fact, I was quite struck by the way Boccia’s work reminded me of the heroism of Mexican Muralism. And so, in my research I came upon Ellen Landau’s work on Phillip Guston’s connection to muralism. Guston traveled with Ruben Kadish to paint a large-scale mural in Moralia, Mexico in 1935. Boccia’s work shares the muralist emphasis on expression set within an architectural structure. The style of dramatic narrative and grandeur is a tradition that continues today with contemporary murals throughout cities worldwide.

To understand Boccia’s work, you must know that artist spent countless hours in the studio making large scale paintings, the most famous of which are triptychs –or panel paintings and measure up to six feet tall. They have a sort of shocking quality, in the sense that the technical aspect is remarkable, the subject matter at times is disturbing and gruesome, and absolutely imaginative. Recently the family uncovered a fascinating series of photos depicting the process of painting the monumental pictures, and this revealed a great deal about the artist’s way of working, the planning, the sketches, the technique of applying paint. It is as if you can see his ideas germinating and evolving as he works. I particularly find the 1979 wedding series fascinating. These paintings and studies were made the same year as the marriage of his daughter Alice. Like many of Boccia’s works, the series works within a rather enigmatic allegorical structure. There is an unsettling quality, and a density in terms of palette and detailing. Like Beckmann’s most well known works, you find yourself lost in the images, drawn to the spectacle, the color, the mysterious motifs, as well as a surreal form of brutality. Similarly Boccia’s iconography remains elusive, yet a rich source for analysis.

What distinguishes Boccia’s work from fellow neo-expressionists? Which of his contemporaries do you feel were also underrepresented?

Well, Expressionism changed the landscape of fine art, theater, and poetry in the beginning of the 20th century, and it transformed into many offshoots or neo-Expressionist forms allover the world. Most of the work is distinguished by disjuncture and fragmented forms often intended to create a certain dissonance, a rebellion of sort, and namely an emotional reaction.

As I mentioned Max Beckmann had briefly served as a teacher at Washington University, and the collector Morton May acquired the finest collection of Beckmann works as well as other important Expressionist pieces. This is important because May was also a great collector of Boccia’s work, and served as the artist’s most significant patron. As well, his family shared with me that he often visited May at his home, and was astonished at a carriage house full to the brim with Expressionists masterworks.

Therefore, we keenly see the influence of Beckmann and some other early 20th century Expressionists, particularly in Boccia’s works like Last Supper for Wayne, 1968. Nonetheless, I would add that later post war work like Boccia’s is inflected with a number of threads and styles including Magical Realism, historic painting, and post war politics. While I accept the label of neo-expressionist for the sake of situating his work, I actually think he has his own pictorial language that defies categorization entirely.

In addition, in response to your questions about underrepresentation, I imagine that there are, in fact, many artists in the world who may be underrepresented because they do not fit into a style that is deemed popular or avant-garde.

Boccia achieved some fame, but you believe he flew under the radar. How did that happen?

He did achieve fame, exhibiting widely, his work is in over 600 private collections, as well as major museums in the United States and Europe, and as I pointed out, important collectors sought his work. In many ways he was fated to fly under the radar as you put it, he made work that was very expressive and engaged in the idea of the sublime and with a complex iconography. However, his work simply did not fit into contemporary ideas of what constitutes the avant-garde e.g. American abstract painting.

In addition to this hierarchy of style, I wanted to know more about the artist’s way of working and why he seemed to be so close to obscurity. The artist trust generously granted me access to the archives and studio work and I have read many of the artist’s journal entries and letters, as well as his written plans for artwork, and lesson outlines for his students. The first thing I would point to is the fact that the sheer toil of making classically rendered pictures is immensely time consuming. It is my belief that rather than spending time promoting himself or trying to make his work commercially viable, he simply worked. The rest of the time was spent teaching. Boccia was a very well read and thoughtful figure, and prodigiously intelligent. He was purposefully disengaged from the world of commercialism and much of art criticism. Moreover, Boccia was acutely aware that his work which after the war was primarily figural, was not “in style” as there was what we might call a hegemony of style in the art world, e.g. the preference of abstraction, and the invested idea that abstraction was the deeper form of art.

As time goes by, do you feel as though abstraction is taking over more of the canon retrospectively than what was true at the time?

It may not even be abstract painting taking over. I wish to say that I love abstract painting, and in fact, my first memory of painting was a blue Helen Frankenthaler picture. I remember being lost in the color and a sense of beautiful nothingness. Boccia’s work demands something different of you, it is far more confrontational, there is no getting lost in the ether, it requires engagement, questioning, a sense of repulsion, and wonder. I would say just because it is stylized, it would be entirely unfair if not foolish to argue it is not a new way of painting. It is immensely complex and engrossing.

Nonetheless, on the matter of complexity, there is also the matter of abstract thinking; by this, I mean the intellectual gymnastics of art critics, the key figures of course are Harold Rosenberg and Clement Greenberg, and their many disciples, who in turn of formed the way we see modernism and the avant-garde.

Truthfully, I find such writing valuable, challenging, and even colorful, however, I think canons are often dictated by critics, who come to dominate the entire dialogue, art scene, institutional collecting practices, etc. I find too often artists are made to take a second seat to critical views. Nonetheless, the arguments of philosophers, literary critics, curators and etc. is in fact an expression of creativity in itself, and interesting because of that aspect. As an art historian, I try my best to engage in this dialogue, to enjoy the ideas etc., but also not to lose sight of understanding the artist’s way of working, and his or her motivation. My experience of using primary sources, interviewing the family, looking through racks and racks of artwork brought me to a place of meaningful investigation and well, ekphrasis.

Thank you for the interview, it is so very wonderful to talk about this artist and the book, which shall be the first of its kind. I am immensely grateful to everyone who has supported the project or contributed to the research including the artist’s widow Madeleine Boccia, his daughter Dr. Alice Boccia, Hilary Kaplan, CalTech, and CC Marsh, Lead Project Research Assistant, Emily May McEwan-Upright, American Painting Research Intern, and Wendy Timmons, German Expressionism Research Intern.

 


All Rights Reserved, Rosa JH Berland and The Edward E. Boccia and Madeleine J. Boccia Art Trust.

Edward E Boccia Artist Obituary- St Louis Today September 2012

Edward Boccia dies -Washington University teacher and artist who became famous by doing things his way

  • BY MICHAEL D. SORKIN • msorkin@post-dispatch.com
  • Sep 9, 2012

 

 Edward Boccia, who died Monday at age 91, was an internationally known painter and a longtime teacher at Washington University whose career took off after he met an arts patron named Morton D. “Buster” May.

May was head of the May Department Stores Co., which owned the Famous-Barr chain. He was an art collector of national renown, with the wherewithal to buy what he wanted.

Each spring, he visited Mr. Boccia’s studio in Webster Groves to look over works the artist had painted or drawn since his last annual visit.

 “He wanted to see everything, and I have always been very prolific,” Mr. Boccia told the Post-Dispatch in 1985. “One year, he would buy drawings like he was buying Hershey bars — the next year, a stack of paintings.”

 

May bought hundreds of the works, using a truck to haul them back to his home in Clayton. He kept buying until he died in 1983. What he didn’t keep, he gave to friends, colleagues, universities and museums.

In so doing, May became the Johnny Appleseed who spread Mr. Boccia’s work across the country.

Edward Eugene Boccia died Sept. 3, 2012, at his home in Webster Groves. He was diabetic and was diagnosed with pneumonia after he had undergone three surgeries since May, his family said.

Critics say Mr. Boccia created a style uniquely his own.

“He was one of those old-school, down-and-dirty painters who knew how to draw,” said A.J. Brewington, a gallery owner in the Central West End who is his agent. “He was gutsy and wasn’t concerned about whether anybody liked him or not.”

Mr. Boccia was a significant member of the Expressionist movement known for masterfully reconciling tone and color, said Petruta Lipan, director of museums and galleries at St. Louis University.

Mr. Boccia was best known for his large triptychs — three-panel paintings — and polyptychs, many with themes related to Catholic mysticism.

His work is included in the collections of the St. Louis Art Museum, the Denver Art Museum, the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City, the St. Louis University Museum of Art, Washington University’s Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, the National Pinakothek in Athens, and more than 600 private collections.

Mr. Boccia was born in Newark, N.J. His father was an Italian immigrant who sold jewelry.

Mr. Boccia studied art at the Pratt Institute in New York. With World War II under way, he joined the Army in 1942.

He served in a battalion filled with other art school students. They set up inflatable rubber tanks and artillery along the coast of England to fool passing German planes.

Pvt. Boccia landed on a beach in Normandy a week after D-Day, then served across Europe. He never stopped painting and drawing.

He used art supplies his mother sent from home. He painted from foxholes and cafes when he could. Then he’d roll up his artwork and send it back to his mother.

“He did these during sometimes intense fighting,” said Judith Mitchell-Miller, a retired high school teacher here who owns seven of Mr. Boccia’s works.

 Mr. Boccia returned home in 1945 and married Madeleine Wysong, whom he had met at Pratt. He attended Columbia University on the GI Bill, took a job as a college dean in Columbus, Ohio, and was recruited to Washington University in 1951 as an assistant dean.

He met Morton May, who introduced him to the work of Max Beckmann, a German Expressionist painter who had taught at Washington University in the late 1940s.

Mr. Boccia became a popular teacher. “He knew what was good in painting,” recalled former student Larry Kozuszek.

Mr. Boccia described his work as dealing with “love, lust and life.”

His works are filled with pagan and Christian themes.

A tragic influence on his life was the 1984 death of his son David at age 36.

Living in St. Louis and working at the university, he said, gave him the security “to paint what I want to paint. I don’t paint things that look well over the sofa.”

Mr. Boccia left behind some 1,400 paintings. His daughter, Alice Boccia of Los Angeles, is trying to locate and catalog all his works on his website.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Catholic Student Center Chapel at Washington University, 6352 Forsyth Boulevard. A private burial was held at St. Paul’s Churchyard.

In addition to his wife and daughter, among the survivors is a granddaughter.

 

REPOSTED FROM THE ST LOUIS DISPATCH

Rosalind Early’s 2011 Interview with the Late American Artist Edward E Boccia

Edward-Boccia, American-Art, American-Painting, Painting, American-Painters, Modern-Art, Contemporary Art, Ed-Boccia, St-Louis-Artist, WUSTL

Edward Boccia Remembered

By

In the magazine world, there are a lot of aborted articles. In 2011, on a rainy September afternoon, I went to artist and poet Edward Boccia’s house to interview him for an article that would never make it into St. Louis Magazine. Not sure what to do with the interview, I transcribed it and waited, since he’d told me SLU planned to do a retrospective in 2013. Unfortunately, Boccia died in September 2012. He was 91.

January 18, 2013


REPOSTED FROM THE ST LOUIS MAGAZINE -ARTICLE BY ROSALIND EARLY

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