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B. Staten Island, NY, 1944

Vincent Baldassano (b. Staten Island, NY, 1944) is a tireless experimenter who combines his interest in the natural world and art history to push painting to its outer limitations. Baldassano completed his BFA at Wagner College, Staten Island, NY and his MFA in Painting & Drawing at the University of Oregon. In the 1960s the artist changed his major from Pre-med and Biology to Fine Art. The medical illustrations of his early studies continue to inspire his work, becoming imaginative biomorphic shapes. As a student, Baldassano created figurative paintings and bronze sculptures inspired by Paleolithic fertility goddess icons, but the nude figure eventually became distorted into abstract human anatomy or absorbed into organic forms reminiscent of cellular imagery and microscopic life.

Baldassano’s work of the 1970s is characterized by a tension between the amorphous curves of the fertility figures and the masculine shapes of pure geometry. These opposing forces are reconciled in illusionistic paintings based on the isometric cube, with organic forms floating within. Baldassano eventually embraced soft shaped canvases in which a diversity of line, color, and shape create a cast of hybrid characters, which like flowers contain both masculine and feminine anatomy. The form and palette are derived the natural elements of a still life—fruits, vegetables, and flowers—but in his imaginitive compositions become warped and reimagined as exuberant growths of alien life. Baldassano conjures a lush garden of surrealist organic organisms, while the location titles given to the works allude to the influence of the light and vegetation of western Connecticut and the lower Hudson Valley, as well as the landscapes of Italy, Portugal, northern Africa, and other places encountered on the artist’s travels.

Baldassano’s interest in duality and the human body would reappear in his work of the 1990s, during which time the artist produced a series of beehive-shaped ceramic "tombs” titled the Habitat Series. The simultaneously grounded and sprouting forms, marked by openings and protruberences, absorb gendered dichotomies and serve as containers for the holistic integration of the internal and external.

Baldassano completed his first cut-out canvases in 1971, which he exhibited at Allan Frumkin and Allan Stone galleries. After the artist lost the majority of his work in a gas fire in 1971, he traveled to Portugal to continue his series of cutouts. Baldassano returned to Buffalo, NY during the Portuguese Revolution where he founded BAM, the Buffalo Ape Movement, and presented a series of “Happenings” at the Albright Knox Art Gallery. Baldassano began his American Indian Series in the 1980s was inspired by his former graduate school friend Peter Quaempts, with whom Baldassano had shared a studio. Quaempts’ accounts of the Yakima tribe introduced Baldassano to an entirely new historical framework and pictorial vocabulary. Works from this period synthesize symbolic images with abstraction and collage, and return to rectangular structure.

From 2006–2008, Baldassano studied fresco and egg tempura techniques in Italy. Baldassano’s recent Banner series, decorated with geometric elements, developed from his 2012 visits to the Castello Chiaramontano in the small Sicilian town of Racalmuto. The display of church standards created by members of the congregation reminded the artist of similar community projects witnessed during his childhood on Staten Island, where he grew up in a predominantly Italian neighborhood. Baldassano has since returned to painting landscapes inspired by the natural beauty of his immediate surroundings, and simultaneously began to incorporate his collages, photos and drawings to create monotypes on the cloth. These works explore effects of transparency, movement, and natural light.

Baldassano has long been a champion of other artists. In addition to BAM, Baldassano was a founding member of the Manhattan Breakfast Club, a group of like-minded artists and writers gathering in Soho, where he lived in the late 1970s. In the ‘90s Baldassano was the owner and director of Station gallery in Katonah, New York, where he dedicated himself to the careers of fellow artists. Baldassano conceives of his career of that as an artist-educator, and has donated much of his own work to community colleges so that it can be more easily accessed by students and under-privileged communities.

Baldassano has taught painting and mixed media at universities, colleges and professional art schools throughout the US, including the Universities of Cincinnati and Buffalo; the School of Fine Arts, NYC; and Silvermine School of Art, New Canaan, CT. He is currently Professor of Art at Gateway Community College, New Haven, CT and on the faculties of Western Connecticut State University and The National Academy of Design.

Baldassano is a recipient of numerous painting grants, residencies and fellowships, including NYSCA, CAPS Grants, and SUNY Painting Fellowships. He has been a Visiting Artist at the American Academy in Rome, the Vermont Studio Center and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. His work is represented in private and public collections in the United States, Europe and Asia, including the Pepsi Cola Corporation, Pfizer Corporation, the New York Federal Building, Housatonic Museum of Art, and the Savannah College of Art & Design.

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