Review: Joseph O’Sickey at Bonfoey Gallery

Just now there is a lot of news and information about O’Sickey. The Canton Museum of Art is hosting an exhibition of his work through July 21, and the Bonfoey Gallery’s exhibition runs through the 13th. The Bonfoey exhibition–Travels: Provence and Maine–consists of an outstanding collection of large works that provide those or us unfamiliar with the artist a chance to get to know him.

Compared to Joseph O’Sickey, the 85-year young Virgie Patton is a mere wet-behind-the-ears youth. O’Sickey, born in 1918, has worked and lived in NE Ohio his entire life. O’Sickey came of age during that faraway time before WWII, when modern art was new, advancing, and filled with optimism.  Those times seem impossibly remote. Although modernism swept all before it during O’Sickey’s formative years, those burly impulses that raised the triumphant banner high receded and dissipated long ago. But the anxious postmodern storms do not cloud O’Sickey’s work, which basks in the fading light of those remote times.

A one-word characterization of O’Sickey’s is stylish. Although his work echos the  most renowned painters of his youth, Matisse and Picasso, he shares none of their interest in process–he has none of Picasso’s destructive inventiveness, nor Matisse’ radical simplifications. He accepted the achievements  of the Impressionists and Post-impressionists as canon and stayed in that world of light and color his entire career. Like the Impressionists, his subjects are from the life of the familiar: pools, gardens, cafes–no inward-looking angst here. Everything is full of color and painted stylishly, as I said.

 

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In his mature style (based on this single exhibition), O’Sickey concentrates heavily on mark-making. Form and light dissolve into patchworks of marks and strokes resulting in very efficient short-hand color maps. Color and mark carry the burden: form, light, space–all–are secondary to color.  This, of course, could be said about many artists; O’Sickey’s work is noteworthy for its calculated ease. Very stylish, like I said.

[Photo is mine; reproduced painting copyright O’Sickey.]

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