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The New York Times 
New York, N.Y.
Sunday, July 11, 1976

                                                                                    David L. Shirey

 

 The Wispy Art of Ciccone

      The art of Antonio Ciccone is spindrift.  Like the wind-blown sea spray, it is elusive, poetic and wispy, resisting convenient descriptions.  Just when the observer thinks he has seized its essence and summoned the vocabulary to articulate his perception, it moves mercurially off in another direction, doing unpredictable things the observer had not anticipated.  But spindrift can also be light, without significant substance and impact, and so can Mr. Ciccone's art. 

     Mr. Ciccone, who is the subject of a show at the Parrish Museum ending here today, is a virtuoso of pictures, a man of many styles, an energetic artist who doesn't settle for one vision of the world.

     Were we to call him an impressionist or an expressionist, we might be somewhere near the truth, but it would be only a partial and misleanding truth.  Mr. Ciccone occasionally skirts surrealism and yet he is not one of its do-or-die devotees.  He is also an admixture of realist and abstractionist, but the blend does not accommodate traditional categories.

     If we can't categorize him, we can certainly agree that Mr. Ciccone's art is attractive in its execution and enjoyable to see.  He is a master craftsman of line and an eloquent apologist of color.  He knows the secrets of pictorial harmony.  He can be provocative, but he is never disturbing enough to unsettle.  His art, it might be said, is more than just another pretty face.

     And yet Mr. Ciccone stops short of making an enduring impression in many of his drawings and paintings.  He has the gift to mesmerize us, but only momentarily, for we are easily shaken out of the hypnosis.  The intrigue of one work fascinates and quickly vanishes.  We go onto the next and experience the same feeling.  In retrospect, we recall his numerous strengths, but they have not left indelible traces.  We might return to view his art again for its sheer esthetic enjoyment as well as to discover what hinders it from attaining its full potential expression.

     The hindrance might be the unfulfilled promise.  We feel slightly cheated.  Mr. Ciccone taunts and tempts us with a prodigality of suggestions but seldom follows them through to a meaningful completion.  In some of his self-portraits and likenesses of his family, for example, he fragments the composition in enticing, even freakish ways.  We are perhaps led to surmise that there is a major revelation lurking behind his singular interpretation.  What we are seeing, though, is more of an artistic exercise than any notable disclosures.

     In some of Mr. Ciccone's landscapes, stripes are placed gratuitously amidst the fields and skies.  There is no rational or irrational justification for their presence.  They are simply there like disruptive intruders who arrived without a purpose.

     Such criticism might be excessively harsh for an artist as skillful and creative as Mr. Ciccone.  I have perhaps overplayed the artist's shortcomings and not sufficiently stressed his fortes, which are many.  But I believe that the artist is diminishing his talents by making too many compromises with trends, courting pictorial gimmickry to an extreme when it isn't necessary and experimenting in too many directions instead of concentrating; he is broadening but not deepening.

     A critic can allow himself such indulgences with an artist who has created outstanding works.  Some of Mr. Ciccone's Long Island landscapes - those without the foofaraw of stripes - are distillations of beauty, especially one of patato fields, another of a Southampton beach and one of a red tree.  In these the artist has displayed a feeling for the landscape, its atmosphere and light.

     And the artist has made some extraordinary drawings, drawings that his Italian forefathers would be pround of.  He can use a hunk of charcoal as if it were an extension of his body.  These works represent the kind of achievement that Mr. Ciccone's other examples deserved, but didn't get. 

   

     




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