Carmen Cicero

About the Artist


New York artist Carmen Cicero’s paintings are filled with mystery, satire and edgy images of life. He combines pointed candor with comic apparitions that reflect his reverence for life’s veracities and vagaries, and the humor he finds in our lives.

Cicero’s art has been on the cutting edge for more than 50 years. The artist has worked in three basic paintings modes: Abstract Expressionism, Figurative Expressionism, and “visionary.” He began his early career as a successful Abstract Expressionist and these works were collected by some of New York’s premier museums including the Museum of Modern Art, Guggenheim Museum and Whitney Museum of American Art. In 1957, Cicero had his first solo show at the Peridot Gallery, New York, showing with fellow artists Louise Bourgeois and Philip Guston. In the early 1960s, Cicero’s canvases began to be populated with intense, expressionist figures. These works positioned him as one of the earliest figurative expressionist painters of his generation. Four of these early expressionist pieces, dated 1962, were acquired by the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. He arrived in New York in the early 70s after a devastating fire that destroyed his studio in Englewood, NJ. He lost the entire body of his work--mostly his figurative expressionist paintings. The artist began again in his new loft on the Bowery, which at the time was filled with flophouses and homeless men and was New York’s "Skid Row.” After several false starts (including working as a hard-edge painter), the artist returned to figurative expressionism in the later 1970s and 1980s and produced a body of work that was well received both uptown on Madison Avenue and downtown during the heyday of the East Village art scene.

By the later 1980s, the artist found a means of working that revealed a side of his inner truth that he had not touched upon before. A kind of expression difficult to define and variously termed by critics “fantasy,” “mystery,” “surrealism” and even “visionary,” these works produce a peculiar atmosphere, a strange, enigmatic spell—images that linger in the unconscious mind. The artist’s use of humor with frankness is coupled with his search for deeper meaning. His tone and spirit produce eerie quietude and stinging bluntness but also create mystery and curiosity for an explanation for these unusual and strange happenings.

A native of New Jersey, Cicero holds a BA from Newark State Teachers College and an MFA from Montclair State. Cicero taught at Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, New York, for nine years and later at Montclair State University, Upper Montclair, New Jersey, for 31 years. He lives in New York City and Truro on Cape Cod. He is also an accomplished jazz musician.

The artist’s work is represented in numerous public, corporate and private collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art; The Museum of Modern Art; The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; Whitney Museum of American Art; Brooklyn Museum of Art; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden; Harvard Art Museums/Fogg; Newark Museum; Montclair Museum of Art; National Academy Museum; National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution; Provincetown Art Association and Museum, MA; and Musei Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam, Netherlands.

Carmen Cicero received Lifetime Achievement awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (2016), Provincetown Art Association and Museum (2012) and the Pollock-Krasner Foundation (2007). A recent monograph, The Art of Carmen Cicero was published in 2013 by Schiffer Publishing in Atglen, PA.