Matt Carone has been a fixture on the South Florida art scene for so long that it's easy to take him for granted. The New Jersey native opened his famous, influential gallery on Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale in 1959, and in the following decades, he built a roster that included such artists as Wolf Kahn, Leon Kroll, Wifredo Lam, and, of course, the great Chilean surrealist Roberto Matta. Meanwhile, Carone quietly continued his own work as a painter, urged on by Matta on his many visits to the area. And when the 41-year-old Hortt Memorial Competition was on the verge of going under a couple of years ago, Carone made his gallery available to the Broward Art Guild as one of the venues for the beleaguered exhibition. Last year, the artist sold his 10,000-square-foot space, which is now home to the Las Olas Art Center. But best of all, the 75-year-old Carone continues to paint, and if a recent one-man show at Lurie Fine Art Galleries in Boca Raton's Gallery Center is any indication, he's at the height of his creative powers.
The imaginary realm of Matthew Carone's painting is a place where traditional figures take on the manic presence of musicians, angels, and mythological heroes and beasts, while others give off the visionary auras of tribal shamans. Fielding a cast of characters from myth and reality, Carone takes on human frailty and beauty, topics many contemporary artists avoid.
Carone's work echoes with a wide range of modernist experiments. Not only is Carone identified with the pioneer generation of Abstract Expressionists, but also critics have seen affinities with Surrealism in his work, as well as developments parallel to those of the CoBrA group. Already enamored by the work of his brother, Nicholas Carone, he looked to such artists as Hans Hofmann, Jackson Pollock, and Willem de Kooning for inspiration. Matta, in particular, mentored his aspirations and gave him insight into how his work could develop.
Although Carone's canvases owe a debt to the history of Abstract Expressionism, it was not until his version of abstraction began to generate figures that the world of Carone's art became the challenging, trance-filled realm it is today. A long, intense struggle led him, at first, away from recognizable objects to spontaneous, non-figurative gesture, and then back again to the region inhabited by his flame-like personages. With this cast assembled, he offers a reflection on the world outside his art.
The innermost subject of Carone's art is the “human condition.” Yet, we cannot go directly to the heart of his painting. The physicality of the image stands in the way. So we have to talk about pigment on canvas.
We have to be formalists for a moment in order to get beyond formalism. All of the artist's characteristic strengths are here: color smoldering hot and transparently cool, rich textures, and an emotional tangle of line. His paintings have a restrained, though equally dynamic, balance of opposing forces: thinly painted areas versus thick impasto, hard edges versus irregular, broken contours, oppositions of intense hues, and all tendencies toward deep space constantly pulled back to the surface. The adjustments of opposites in the painting closed form versus open line, clear definition versus ambiguity and, most significantly, chance versus deliberate manipulation constitute the core of his art.
Carone is in charge of the image, yet he often takes the risk of letting it have its way with him. Such scenes reflect the courage of an artist so much at one with his art that he can laugh at the occasionally difficult moments in the relationship, those times when painting dictates to him, rather than the other way around. Confidence this solid unleashes extraordinary powers. Gusts of euphoria sweep through Carone's art, especially in the works of these last few years.
One senses in these works the strength a painter's gesture can have when he points without the least hesitation at the pleasures and terrors of an entire lifetime. Matthew Carone teaches us that, with courage, the pleasure wins out.
Renaissance: a reawakening? A period of time when the arts flourish, great art is produced, new insights develop. It happens in societies, it happens in individuals. Mathew Carone is in a second major career, a true renaissance artist. Today's painting reaffirms his inner talents as an artist, as a man reaching to the highest pinnacle, with fresh insights and great skill. He shows the viewer new visions.
As a youngster he quickly developed both notable musical and visual artistic quality. After marriage and children he became a school teacher. The salary was steady, furnishing a solid family footing, and allowing him the opportunity to continue both the violin and painting. Over the many decades of hands on involvement in the local cultural community, Mathew Carone became a major force in the artistic world of South Floridaa friend to artists and musicians of international distinction from all corners who subsequently came to live and work in Florida.
Although preferring to keep his paintings a source of private pleasure, over the years Matt has participated in many successful exhibitions, both in Florida and across the United States, and has been the recipient of numerous awards for excellence in the visual arts. His work has been enthusiastically received by many notable art critics and writers and he has been recognized by his peers as a notable force in the contemporary Florida art scene. Today, his work can be found in many prominent public and private collections.
I am privileged to have in my own small collection two Carone works. One is an early composition of strong color and sharp edges, the second a recent one with delicate shadings and fascinating linear structure. Both have had my admiration and the veneration of many others who have seen these images in my home.
This exhibition is further testimony to work that reflects the nature of a serious , knowledgeable artist who has mastered his craft. He has arrived at his renaissance, an acknowledgement of a mastery anew.
(Among his many professional awards and distinguished accomplishments in the visual arts, Mr. Freundlich is the Director Emeritus of the Lowe Art Museum at The University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida, and Chair Emeritus of the Department of Art at Syracuse University, New York. He currently serves as President of the Richard Florsheim Art Foundation.)