Colette Calascione Exhibition Nancy Hoffman Gallery

March 15-April 21, 2012


The next exhibition at Nancy Hoffman Gallery is new work by Colette Calascione, her first solo show in New York in six years.  The exhibition opens on March 15th and closes on April 21st.  A female figure is the focal point of each oil painting, seated, standing or reclining, and most often nude.  While the paintings stretch to 2x3 feet in scale, they are generally of a more intimate size, from 8x10 inches to 20x20 inches, on wood panels. 

Inspired by books and images of earlier eras of art history, particularly the Deco era, as well as Japanese aesthetics, Calascione invents a world that is her own.  Images of women and children in old photographs are transformed in the artist’s hands.  She never literally copies a photo or its background.  When she sees a figure she likes, her vision forms around it.  Clothed figures in photographs are sometimes undressed by Calascione in her paintings, and placed in a mise-en-scene she creates.  Rarely does the environment surrounding the figure come directly from a book or photo, as a “quote.” In her recent paintings the artist varies complex settings with juxtapositions of the figure against a solid ground color. Sometimes she creates a sense of mystery as the figure emerges from a dark ground; at others she achieves a visual “éclat” by placing a nude against a brilliant color, as in “Curl,” in which a fleshy nude is contrasted with a brilliant blue.

Painted like “old master” paintings over many months, often over the course of a year or more, using many glazes in oil paint, the artist starts with a careful drawing, followed by a monochromatic under-painting, then many layers of oil, to achieve the height of palette and perfection of technique.

Addressing the issue of gender identity and particularly that of “female identity,” Calascione’s imagination takes her into flights of fancy and fantasy in her paintings.  She paints women in all guises, mostly unclothed, sitting on divans brocaded in satin, standing provocatively, looking at the viewer, reclining on a bed surrounded by the stuff of dream and fantasy, purring cats, fairy tale fish, toy soldiers.  In “Amphitrite,” a voluptuous reclining mermaid lies on a purple chaise lounge in a cave, through which translucent azure waters flow.  A bedside table floats in the water with the mermaid’s jewels, her lyre, a conch shell, starfish—all props for this siren who reveals the roundness of her posterior which morphs into a fish tail.  In her seaside bower the mermaid rests an elbow on a pink patterned pillow, while a stage set of curtains seems to protect her. An anchor suspended from the top of the painting seems unlikely to plant itself anywhere near this enchanted spot.  A white sheet draped on the chaise keeps the mermaid dry, as the artist paints folds and pleats, paying homage to art of Greek and Roman times. In this painting, Calascione interprets personally the mythological consort of Poseidon, symbol of the sea.

In contrast to the alluring goddess Amphitrite, “Clementine Valentine” is reserved and clothed.  With layers of rolled red curls, and pearls at the neck, she gazes at the viewer in regal finery.  Her playful hair-do framing her face has two braids tied with purple bows. Clementine’s face is of a pure, beguiling lass, cherry lips, hazel eyes, pale pink cheeks, a wise yet innocent damsel.  Inspired by historical garb—invented by the artist—her blue velvet frock has a lacy collar in greens, reds, and blues held together by a heart shaped brooch with three pearl pendants.  Pearls punctuate the lacy collar, and adorn her ears, as elegant gold and pearl pendant earrings.  Her wide eyes captivate and call as she emerges from a single color background.

Rather than make a verbal statement about the new works, Colette sent a few quotes by artists who share her sentiments:

“If I could say it in words there would be no reason to paint.”
Edward Hopper

“An artist cannot talk about his art any more than a plant can discuss horticulture.”
Jean Cocteau

“If I knew what the painting was about, I’d never paint it in the first place.”

Salvador Dali

It is the painting itself that tells the tale of magic and mystery and romance, and invites one to a world conceived by the artist in its layers of oil, observation, color and form.

Colette Calascione was born in 1971.  She received a B.F.A. from the San Francisco Art Institute, California.  Her work has been shown at Selby Gallery, Ringling School of Art and Design, Sarasota, Florida; St. Mary’s College, Moraga, California; and the San Francisco Art Institute, California, as well as in many galleries, most notably in the San Francisco area.

For additional information and/or photographs, please call 212-966-6676 6676 or e-mail the gallery at info@nancyhoffmangallery.com.