Tax Deductible Contributions to Support the Publication of the First Monograph on the Italian American Artist Edward Boccia

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The tax year is ending soon and we are requesting our supporters and those interested in fostering and celebrating the legacy of Italian Americans’ contributions to art and culture to consider donating to our special project -THE FIRST EVER BOOK on Edward E. Boccia. Donations can be made via our Fiscal Sponsor website donation page.

 

We welcome any amount and hope to meet our goal of $10,000 USD before 2022!

 

Thank you to the donors who have already contributed. This innovative book is only possible through the patronage of our friends, family and colleagues. Please visit our donation page at Fractured Atlas, donations are tax deductible as per IRS regulations. 

 

Edward-Boccia, Contemporary-Art

 

 

 

Boccia’s Art on View at Missouri S+T

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We are delighted to see Edward Boccia’s artwork featured in this recent story Art Around Campus at Missouri Science + Technology  from Missouri Science & Technology…..such a wonderful collection…

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Photo courtesy of Sam O’Keefe, Missouri S&T

Boccia’s large-scale triptych from 1978 The Sacrosanct hangs on view at the campus. This painted was donated to the university by Morton May, the widely admired fine art collector and philanthropist  -and one of Boccia’s most ardent collectors.

 

Beckmann Looking at My Model -A late picture by Edward E Boccia

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Did you know that the American painter Edward Boccia worked at Washington University shortly after the appointment of Max Beckman. We know that the American artist was indebted to Beckman in many ways, and he often acknowledged the strength of the German Expressionist master’s work.

It’s interesting to note that Boccia would inherit Beckmann’s painting easel and use it among the many others in his studio through the years. Recently, a late smaller scale painting entitled Beckmann Looking at my Model (1991) resurfaced on the market -what a fascinating piece — a reflection not only of Beckmann’s legacy in the story of modern art, but a moment in Boccia’s own artistic life.

 

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Select Paintings by Edward Boccia

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Edward Boccia Nereus Reborn 1960 .jpg

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)


 

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Edward E. Boccia Mystique Marriage, 1979, oil on canvas, triptych, Collection of Jennifer Paternikis, Athens, Greece

 

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Photograph of Boccia’s painting The Wedding Reception, oil on canvas, 55 x 63 in the artist’s studio c.1979

 

 

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Edward E. Boccia Dark Night of the Soul, 1987, oil on canvas, triptych, Private Collection

 

 

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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.

Newly Discovered Abstract Drawings by Edward Boccia

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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.

Art + the Sea -The Early Paintings of Edward E. Boccia

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fig-3-boccia-1958-dreams-of-sea-mythEdward E. Boccia Dreams of Sea Myth, 1958, oil on canvas diptych, each panel 47 x 23, Collection of The Artist Trust

Fresco like matte surface is matched by a whirling fluid dynamism in Boccia’s early paintings such as Sea Myth, 1958. In the exhibition catalog published on the occasion of one of many retrospectives, the artist comments on the significance of the sea in his work:

“And yet, it is the sea—that vast and primal home of early origins—which revitalizes, in its ebb and flow, the very soul wherefrom my stirrings take their form.” He elucidates that as well the white sail is the “torn spirit” the upturned boat is a metaphor for birth, what the artist calls a “world embryo” who will stop Nereus’ abduction of the bird woman.” (Some Notes by the Artist” in E. Boccia A Retrospective Exhibition. October 30 – December 8, 1960. The Pius XII Memorial Library, St. Louis University, St. Louis, Missouri).

Edward Boccia Nereus Reborn 1960 .jpgEdward E. Boccia Nereus Reborn, 1960, oil on canvas triptych, center panel 93 x 48 and side panels: 93 x 25, Collection of University of St. Louis, Missouri

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

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.

 

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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.

Washington U. professor Edward Boccia left legacy of images -St Louis Post Dispatch

 

By Calvin Wilson, Post Dispatch February 16, 2013

Edward Boccia described his art as dealing with “love, lust and life,” and anyone who has stepped back and taken in his creations would be hard put to disagree. With a vividness that reflects the influence of artists from Max Beckmann to Paul Cézanne while adhering to a unique sensibility, Boccia’s paintings and drawings just about reach out and pull the viewer inside them.

For many years a professor at Washington University’s School of Fine Arts, Boccia died last September at his home in Webster Groves. Boccia was 91, and he had seen a lot, including action as a soldier in World War II. And he transformed quite a bit of what he saw into a legacy of countless images.

Boccia’s work, which attracted the backing of nationally renowned art collector Morton D. “Buster” May, is the subject of two exhibitions: “Edward Boccia: Figurative Expressionist,” through March 3 at the St. Louis University Museum of Art, and “Edward Boccia: Early Work,” opening Friday at the Sheldon Art Galleries.

edward-boccia-the-encounter-1979 Edward E. Boccia The Encounter, 1979

“He created his own world through his art,” said Petruta Lipan, director of SLUMA. “And his world is very complicated and multilayered.

“You look at his artworks, and you think you know what you’re looking at. But the more you look at it, the deeper and deeper it gets, because he mixes mythology and religion and literary themes within one work. And that’s what makes his work so interesting.”

Philanthropist May (of the May Department Stores, which owned the Famous-Barr chain) was an important figure in getting out the word about Boccia, said the artist’s daughter, Alice Boccia, who is an archeological conservationist.

“He was a huge art collector here in St. Louis, and every year he would come over to the house and look at all the work Dad had done for the past 12 months,” said Boccia, who now lives in Los Angeles. “From, say, 1952 until he passed away in 1983.”

May purchased hundreds of Boccia’s works, keeping them for his collection or giving them to museums, universities and acquaintances.

The exhibition at SLUMA focuses on Boccia’s large-scale paintings, including triptychs (three-panel paintings). The works are displayed with just enough room for spectators to stand back and ponder their meanings. Particularly striking are “Low Tide” (1983), which depicts a bearded man reading a book while impaled on what appear to be sticks rising out of the water, and “The Absolved” (1984), a portrait of a male and a female who have fish heads but human genitalia.

In contrast, “Edward Boccia: Early Work” is more intimate in scope. Olivia Lahs-Gonzales, director of the Sheldon Art Galleries, said the exhibition — which focuses on drawings and paintings made between 1941 and 1969 — sheds light on a different side of Boccia’s artistry.

“It gives people another view of what he was like as an artist, and his interests,” she said. Among the pieces are “drawings that he made during World War II, or right at the end of World War II, of fellow soldiers and people that he met in France and other places.

“You can see the influence of the Old Masters in his work,” Lahs-Gonzales said. “Also, people like Van Gogh.”

Boccia was born in Newark and studied art at Pratt Institute in New York (where he met his future wife, Madeleine Wysong). He is estimated to have created 4,000 paintings, and his work is included in more than 600 private collections, as well as being part of the permanent collections of SLUMA, the St. Louis Art Museum, Washington University’s Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, the Denver Art Museum and the National Pinakothek in Athens.

It was through May that Boccia became familiar with the work of Beckmann, a German expressionist painter who taught at Washington University in the 1940s, and who had his first U.S. retrospective in St. Louis in 1948.But whereas Beckmann merely passed through St. Louis, Boccia – who came to Washington University in 1951 as an assistant dean – spent most of his life here.

“I can look at his work for years, and I still find something new,” Lipan said.


‘Edward Boccia: Early Work’

When • Friday through May 18. Opening reception is from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday; galleries open until 8 p.m. Regular hours are noon to 8 p.m. Tuesday, noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and beginning an hour before performances and during intermission.

Where • Sheldon Art Galleries, Nancy Spirtas Kranzberg Gallery, 3648 Washington Boulevard

How much • Free

More info • 314-533-9900; thesheldon.org

‘Edward Boccia: Figurative Expressionist’

When • 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday; through March 3

Where • St. Louis University Museum of Art, Aronson Gallery, 3663 Lindell Boulevard

How much • Free

More info • 314-977-2666; slu.edu/sluma.xml


All Rights Reserved, 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

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