Allan D'Arcangelo
Year, Birthplace 1930, United States
Year, Place of death 1998, United States
After studying history of art at the University at Buffalo, Allan D’Arcangelo, the son of Italian immigrants, moved to New York in 1953 and attended the School of Social Research. In 1955, with the help of a grant, he spent two years in Mexico studying art at Mexico City College under the tutelage of John Golding. His first solo exhibition was held in that country at the Galería Genova in 1958. His style was then close to constructivism. From this point onwards he developed quickly, using acrylic paint on large flat surfaces, simplifying the design as far as possible so that the image would have the greatest possible impact. In 1962 he conceived the painting American Madonna #1 as an icon of modernity, with the American flag and words (‘Export’, ‘No Hooks’) arranged as if on packaging and a detail from Grant Wood’s famous double portrait (American Gothic, 1930), the symbolic representation of the values of a puritan, reactionary America that was closed on itself. In other paintings he associates an astronaut with a pin-up, the American flag, and the Statue of Liberty. After hitchhiking across the country from coast to coast between 1961 and 1962 he began to paint landscapes. This deep immersion in the ‘void’ of America allowed him to represent highways, those legendary and endless roads which criss-cross the country, enlivened by traffic lights, road signs, and service station billboards. Creating large smooth surfaces of acrylic paint, he particularly focused on nocturnal landscapes in which the play of shadows is linked to the black of the asphalt, punctuated by brightly lit images with a long fluorescent central line of escape. These paintings generally take the name of the road that they depict (like US 1) or of a visual element (like Esso or Gulf). The shapes and colours are highly simplified, reminding us of the signs that the driver sees when travelling along these roads. To heighten their realism, he stuck photographs over the canvases and incorporated them in his designs and colours. D’Arcangelo became a specialist in these icons, embodying ultra-pop imagery. He achieved great success with his representations of roads (such as Highway US 1 #3, 1963) and industrial landscapes. His first solo exhibition in New York, where he moved, took place at the Fischbach Gallery in 1963. From this point onwards, he would be recognised as one of the key artists of the pop movement. (In 1964 he took part in the exhibition American Landscape Painting at the MoMA in New York; he also exhibited at the Galerie Ileana Sonnabend in Paris in 1965 and at the Marlborough Gallery in 1971). The next few years were a time of intense activity in which he worked on painted murals in New York and in advertising. He manipulated images, moving from reality to illusion, playing with the ambiguity between the real and the fictional, which explains the title Smoke Dream given to several of his works. In the mid-1970s he painted the superstructures of bridges, cables and pillars, among other objects. Allan D’Arcangelo also worked extensively in printmaking, creating lithographs and serigraphs. In his later works he introduced real objects, including fences, traffic barriers, and blinds. His position in relation to the art world was a little unusual since he was a professor of art for a large part of his life at the New York School of Visual Arts (1963-1968), at Cornell University in Ithaca and at Brooklyn College (from 1969 onwards) as well as at the Institute of Humanistic Studies in Aspen. This partly explains why he is a little less well-known than his peers despite having been associated with all the big exhibitions that marked the history of the pop movement. AC