During the 1950s there was a lingua franca in New York, and Nicolas Carone was a master speaker. At that time a number of young painters and sculptors convened at what was known as “The Club” and engaged in raucous discussions about what they were about. Out of these informal meetings the lineaments of a new generation’s movement emerged.


The formal aspects of that studio language were loosely defined as “abstract expressionism,” although very few of its practitioners would have submitted to any confining label. One of its most energetic representatives was Nicolas Carone. He encouraged Eleanor Ward, a woman who appeared unheralded amongst the artists, to open a gallery in a former stable on West 58th Street, where the aroma of leather and hay still lingered. Carone was Ward’s guide to the contemporary art scene. Often comfortably installed at the Stable Gallery entrance, he was for many visitors a helpful kibitzer. At the same time he was working in his own studio, often in a tonal register from black to white that distinguished his work from that of others of his generation, who had taken their cues from such celebrated abstract expressionists as Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline.


Like many of his colleagues, Carone never thought of himself as a “non-objective” painter. He did not hesitate to acknowledge certain experiences with light and shadow, both in his urban studio and in the fields and waters of Springs in East Hampton. In the works of this period—often oils on paper—Carone, more than any others of his generation, worked in a grisaille that suggested moody skies and cloud-shadowed waters.


Carone’s preoccupation with shadows endows his paintings with the kind of visual ambiguity that was highly appreciated during the 1950s and won him a special place in the frequent group exhibitions of the period, such as the famous Ninth Street Show in 1951. Moreover, his willingness to shepherd his fellow painters into what would become landmark exhibitions, the annual group shows at the Stable Gallery, gave him traction for his own paintings in the ever-widening audience for abstract art.


Carone was one of the most knowledgeable artists of his generation, and it was largely thanks to him that Jackson Pollock’s work was included in the Stable Gallery Annual in 1954. Yet for all his loyalty to the older generation, Carone remained true to his own experiences, and his paintings of the 1950s resound with his responses to seaside vistas and the volatile weather conditions he encountered on eastern Long Island. One can as easily receive these paintings as skyscapes or landscapes as one can think of them as pure abstractions.


Dore Ashton

© Estate of Nicolas Carone 2012 (except in case of previous copyright)