Sunbands V
1969
82" x 120"
Painting, acrylic and oil on canvas
In the “60s into “70s Lawrence Calcagno created his Sunbands Series. Calcagno is not just dividing the picture plane – you would have to posit some effect of Frank Stella here – but segmenting three distinct shapes of the painting, descending in color from lemon yellow, to tangerine, red, purple, umber, blue to black, black back to yellow.

About the Artist
(1913 - 1993)
San Francisco-born artist Lawrence Calcagno spent the first part of his life on a ranch near Big Sur, California, teaching himself to paint from his own observations of the California landscape.  His parents, Vincent and Anna de Rosa Calcagno were Italian immigrants.  Calcagno remained largely self-taught until after World War II, when he began to study painting under the G.I. Bill with the artist Clyfford Still, whose saturated palette and thick-textured linear style remained influences on Calcagno’s work throughout his career. 

Calcagno went on to study at the California School of Fine Art in San Francisco from 1947-1950, as well as at the Academie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris from 1950-1951 and the Instituto d’Arte Statale in Florence from 1951-1952.  Calcagno’s work was first shown at the Faccheti Gallery in Paris in 1952.  He continued to work and study in Paris until 1955.  During this time, Calcagno became acquainted with Martha Jackson, who mounted his first one-man at her New York gallery in 1955.  

While in Paris, Calcagno  met the artist Beauford Delaney. An unlikely pair, the two became companions and remained close over the next twenty years.

Delaney and Calcagno had many things in common. Both men committed themselves wholeheartedly to lyrical abstraction, though Delaney's work was ultimately influenced more by Claude Monet's fluid water-lily paintings, than by the color-field painters so important in Calcagno's formation as an artist. Both men shared an interest in the philosophical underpinnings of their abstract work, and both were also aware of their social isolation that accompanied their homosexuality. Calcagno's abstract "landscapes of the mind" with their recognizable and consistent horizons derived in part from the artist's sense of the universal, yet mysterious harmony of nature. Through Delaney, Calcagno also became friends with James Baldwin and the three travelled together.

The relationship between Delaney and Calcagno can be summarized in a single phrase that Delaney wrote in a letter to Calcagno in 1968, in which he described a “deathless kinship that is constant [and] is always alive and close between us.”

Calcagno was friends with the artist Jack Whitten. In 1964 Calcagno supported Whitten alongside artists Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence and Wayne Thiebaud to secure Whitten a grant for minority artists from the John Hay Whitney Foundation.

Over the next several years, Calcagno served as artist-in-residence at the University of Alabama, the Albright School of the University of Buffalo, the University of Illinois, and the Honolulu Academy of Arts. 

From 1959-1960, Calcagno taught at New York University and showed his work at exhibitions in places as diverse as Lima, Peru, Mexico City, London, and Copenhagen.  In 1965, he was awarded a Ford Foundation grant.  He was also named the visiting Andrew Mellon Chair of Painting at Carnegie-Mellon University, and was also awarded fellowships by the Yaddo Foundation of Saratoga Springs, New York, the MacDowell Colony of Peterborough, New Hampshire, and he eventually purchased a home in Taos, New Mexico after his 1972 Wurlitzer residency there.
Calcagno’s work is strongly reminiscent of the California landscapes of his early life, employing a warm, saturated palette and unfocused, minimal, mostly linear forms, evoking oceanscapes and sunsets.    

His pieces were shown in a circulating exhibition by the Smithsonian from 1973-1975, in a touring retrospective by the Mitchell Museum in Mount Vernon, Illinois in 1982, and at solo exhibitions at the Harwood Foundation Museum of Taos and the Anita Shapolsky Gallery in New York in 1987.   In 1989, he was awarded a major grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.  

Calcagno’s work is included in the public collections of several museums, including Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo, NY; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Carnegie Institute Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA; Oakland Museum, Oakland, CA;  San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Brooklyn Museum of Art; and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C., among others.

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