« Features

Nick Carone: Shadow Dance

By Denise Colson

On April 24th, The Boca Raton Museum of Art will open “Shadow Dance,” an exhibition that features a selection of works by Nick Carone, one of the original Abstract Expressionists. This show is named for a homonymous piece from 2007 that epitomizes his long and varied career. Shadow Dance is a monumental black and white painting that encompasses both the abstract and figurative aspects of his work. At first glance, the painting appears abstract but on closer examination figures dance across the canvas. It will be exhibited along with nearly 20 more paintings, works on paper, and the rarely exhibited enigmatic sculptural heads he carved in the 1970s from fieldstones found on his property in Italy.

Nick Carone, Shadow Dance, 2007, acrylic on canvas. All images are courtesy of the Estate of Nicolas Carone and Loretta Howard Gallery, New York, NY.

Nick Carone, Shadow Dance, 2007, acrylic on canvas. All images are courtesy of the Estate of Nicolas Carone and Loretta Howard Gallery, New York, NY.

Carone was born in 1917 on New York’s Lower East Side to Italian immigrants. In 1941 he won the prestigious Prix de Rome and spent time in Italy where he later had his first solo exhibition in 1949. In Rome, Carone became a member of a thriving art scene centered near the Spanish Steps and formed lifelong friendships with artists such as Roberto Matta, Alberto Burri, and Conrad Marc-Relli.

Nick Carone, Untitled, 1959, oil on linen.

Nick Carone, Untitled, 1959, oil on linen.

In 1951 he returned to the US and joined with a group of avant-garde artists who became known as the New York School. He was included in the pivotal “Ninth Street Show” along with Elaine and Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Joan Mitchell, Robert Motherwell, and others. This exhibition introduced the Abstract Expressionists to the art world. Carone was particularly close with Jackson Pollock and lived next door to Mark Rothko. He also was the founding director of seminal Stable Gallery, where he gave shows to such masters as Philip Guston, de Kooning, and Pollock.

Nick Carone, High Spirit, 2008, acrylic on tarpaulin.

Nick Carone, High Spirit, 2008, acrylic on tarpaulin.

Carone exhibited extensively with his peers in important venues such as the Whitney Museum of American Art and Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and had many solo exhibitions of his work, the last of which was in 1961. Despite this early success, he became disillusioned with the art world after the advent of Pop Art and refused to exhibit his work in galleries except occasionally with his brother Matthew Carone in Fort Lauderdale. Although he never stopped making art, Carone became better known as an influential teacher for 26 years at the New York Studio School.

Nick Carone, Umbrian Head in Stone 11, 1986, Italian field stone.

Nick Carone, Umbrian Head in Stone 11, 1986, Italian field stone.

Throughout his life, Carone admired Italian ancient art and the legacy of Renaissance masters. He eventually bought a farmhouse in Umbria and became part of a community of artists who lived and worked near the town of Todi.

Nick Carone, Shadow Retreat, 1958, oil on board.

Nick Carone, Shadow Retreat, 1958, oil on board.

The acclaim he received in the early years of his career in Rome and New York was replicated in the final years of his life. Many friends and students knew of the large body of work he had produced and his colleagues finally persuaded him to agree to a solo gallery exhibition in 2005 at the age of 88. In the years before his death in 2010, his work was the subject of six exhibitions that were met with praise from critics. John Yau said the work Carone made at the age of 90 was “nothing short of miraculous” and called for a much-needed reevaluation of artists still living who had been associated with the Abstract Expressionists. At the end of his life, Carone was honored with the Andrew Carnegie Prize from the National Academy Museum and a lifetime achievement award from the Pollock Krasner Foundation.

“Shadow Dance” will remain on view until July 29th, 2018. Boca Raton Museum of Art is located in Mizner Park, at 501 Plaza Real, Boca Raton, FL, 33432. | www.bocamuseum.org.

Denise Colson is an arts writer based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.