Joseph O’Sickey in Retrospect
January 19 @ 9:00 am - December 16 @ 5:00 pm
The Artists Archives of the Western Reserve is pleased to present Joseph O’Sickey in Retrospect, an exhibition of 27 significant paintings and drawings by the important and dynamic modernist. Curated by Executive Director Mindy Tousley, the show features the Archives’ latest acquisitions from the artist’s estate, including exuberant scenes of racetracks and zoos, scintillating still-lifes and lush scenes of his own wild paradise in Twin Lakes, Ohio.
Joseph O’Sickey in Retrospect will be on view until December 16, 2023 at The Cleveland Convention Center Art Gallery, 1 St. Clair Ave. NE., Cleveland (Door is labeled Global Center for Health Innovation). The Gallery is located in the C2 Concourse. Attendees can also enter the Gallery using the tunnel from the Huntington Self-Park Garage, located off of West Third Street (1141 West 3rd, Cleveland, OH 44114). Gallery Hours: Daily 9am – 5pm and during special events.
The Artists Archives would like to officially thank Eileen Roth of Art Source Inc. & Dave Johnson of the Huntington Convention Center for their continued support and making the show possible.
Didactic written for the exhibition by Executive Director & Curator Mindy Tousley:
Joseph O’Sickey (1918 – 2013), was an artist his whole life. He grew up as the second of five children in a Polish – American family. While his mother worked outside the home, his immigrant grandmother encouraged him to draw as a child, and he became fascinated with birds. This turned into a life-long interest in drawing birds as well as horses, circus, and zoo animals.
His family moved from Detroit to Cleveland when Joseph was four years old. As a young child attending The Charles Dickens Elementary School on Cleveland’s east side, he was exposed to original watercolors by Cleveland masters such as Paul Travis, Frank N. Wilcox, and Bill Coombes. O’Sickey later attended East Tech High School and graduated from The Cleveland School (now Cleveland Institute of Art) in 1940. As an undergraduate, he studied with Travis and many of the other now renowned Cleveland School artists; Henry Keller, Frank Wilcox, William Eastman, Carl Gaertner, Rolf Stoll, Kenneth Bates, and Victor Schreckengost. Undoubtedly their influence helped shape his artistic eye, and his own personal philosophy of making art, and to paraphrase Plain Dealer art critic Steven Litt, he is widely viewed as a member of the Cleveland School, a group of artists whose work bridged traditional impressionism and modernism in the first half of the 20th century.
In March of 1941, he was drafted into the Army where he spent 26 months of his four years and ten months in service overseas in Africa, India and Burma. Since it was difficult to obtain painting materials, O’Sickey focused on drawing with whatever medium and paper was available. He credits this time and his lack of art materials as the thing that really taught him how to draw. Upon his return from the war, in 1946 Joseph met and fell in love with the woman, who would remain his wife, fellow artist, and muse for the next 60 years, Algesia D’ Agostino.
O’Sickey had a long career as a teacher at several different universities. From his first job at Ohio State University until his retirement from Kent State in 1989, he instilled in his pupils the need to draw directly from life, the lesson he himself had learned during WW II. While teaching at OSU he befriended an Ohio artist who would later become internationally famous, Roy Lichtenstein. He and Lichtenstein visited New York City together, where they both viewed the work of the Abstract Expressionists with some distaste. They each reacted to this experience, and art movement, in different ways. Lichtenstein would go on to become famous as a Pop Art artist residing in New York, and O’Sickey would return to Cleveland where he vowed to make art only from what he could see directly around him in his life.
O’Sickey felt strongly that rather than change the way he created art in order to succumb to the lure of fame or fit into a derivative path of Art History that held no interest for him, he would strive to originate aesthetically beautiful works that brought him and his viewers pleasure. He chose, in effect to be inspired by his everyday life, and the natural beauty of life surrounding him.
He proceeded to use all of the above mentioned lifelong artistic influences to create the stunning paintings that have been loved by all here in Northeast Ohio. O’Sickey based his lush colorful paintings on his homes, studios, and gardens in Twin Lakes Ohio, and Deer Island Maine. He continued his fascination with animals, visiting zoos, racetracks and circuses, and of course he painted his beloved wife Algesia, and their son Joel.
Besides his career as a teacher, he had a successful career as a professional painter, with two NY galleries selling his work from 1963 until 1994, and subsequently sold works through the Vixseboxse Art Gallery in Cleveland Heights, and the Bonfoey Gallery in downtown Cleveland. O’Sickey won the Cleveland Arts Prize in 1974, received a 2013 Governors Awards for the Arts , and participated in over 50 solo exhibitions throughout his life. His work was selected for 24 May shows between 1938 and 1977, and can be found in the collections of The Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio; Canton Museum of Art, Ohio; Westmoreland Museum of Art, PA; Butler Museum of American Art, Ohio; Roy Lichtenstein Collection; Leonard Baskin Collection; and the Columbus Museum of Art, GA.
The Artists Archives of the Western Reserve was one of the beneficiaries of Joseph and Algesia O’Sickey’s estate, and we are extremely proud to have the received the works by Joseph O’Sickey, in 2022, that you see displayed here today in the Convention Center Gallery. We are proud to share these works with the thousands of people that will pass through this gallery in 2023. Enjoy!
AAWR Executive Director 1.18.2023