Born in 1954 in Madrid, José María Sicilia studied at Beaux-Art de San Fernando in Madrid. He then moved to Paris and in the 1980s to New York where he became internationally known along with a group of Spanish peers. His travel profoundly influenced his work; his exposure to different cultures heightened his sensitivity to global symbolism, storytelling, and nature. With diverse influences ranging from the textural, expressionistic work of Tapies to the reductionist works of Malevich and Mondrian, Sicilia’s art recognizes abstraction and representation as inherently linked. Sicilia is primarily interested in the mysterious qualities of light and matter – not the light itself but its movement, its fleetingness.

His work grapples with life and death, past and present by cherishing awareness of the present moment and its transitory nature. His gallery, Galerie Chantal Crousel in Paris, noted in a press release the “devot[ion of] much of his career to question[ing] immaterial space between art and life.” Sicilia’s attention to and juxtaposition of the ethereal with the tangible is expressed in materials. At Crown Point Press he employed wax and printer’s ink, emphasizing their natural layering tendencies. In layered surfaces, he observes, “things appear and disappear…so that in the end you’re left with a kind of mirage.” This mirage is almost otherworldly: as Laurie Attias of Frieze magazine notes, the “translucent, fragile-looking materials [of Sicilia’s work] look as if they are about to disintegrate, creating an atmosphere that suggests evanescence and mortality.” Sicilia’s art is not morbid or pessimistic; rather it acknowledges the innate beauty and inevitability of decay.

In March of 2011, Sicilia created Winter Flowers, an exhibition in Japan that gave form to the sound, emotion, and tragedy of the Fukushima earthquake and tsunami. His work catalyzed remembrance and recovery in a series of two- and three-dimensional paintings with organic, colorful forms, his interpretations of the sounds of the disaster.

Sicilia’s first one-person exhibition took place in Paris in 1982. Since then, he has shown his works internationally, including exhibitions at the Venice Biennale, the Bordeaux Musée d’Art Contemporain, the Nagasaki Prefecture Museum of Art, and the Louvre. In February of 2014 he showed at the Centre Pompidou in Paris. He lives and works in Mallorca, Spain, and in Paris.

-Sophie Kovel, Crown Point Press

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