In 1954, when Nicolas Carone bought a house in the Three Mile Harbor area of East Hampton, he joined an ever-widening circle of artists who had been revitalizing the region’s art colony since the end of World War II. Led by Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner, who moved to Springs in 1945, the community extended from Wainscott to Montauk and included Conrad Marca-Relli, Robert Motherwell, Ibram Lassaw, John Little, Joan Mitchell, Costantino Nivola, Julian Levi, Elizabeth Parker, Wilfrid Zogbaum, John Ferren and Alfonso Ossorio, as well as artist couples Willem and Elaine de Kooning, Balcomb and Gertrude Greene, James Brooks and Charlotte Park, and Perle Fine and Maurice Berezov. Not all were full-time residents like Pollock and Krasner, who encouraged their friends to buy property in the neighborhood and sometimes acted as unofficial real estate agents, as they did for Carone and his family. 

In conversation with Jeffrey Potter, who interviewed Carone for his 1985 book, To a Violent Grave: An Oral Biography of Jackson Pollock, the artist recalled that it was Marca-Relli, Pollock’s next-door neighbor, who introduced them. Five years Pollock’s junior, Carone had been working in Italy during the 1940s and had returned to New York in 1951, just as the New American Painting was gaining international recognition. Evidently Pollock found something in Carone’s work that struck a responsive chord, and his encouragement meant a great deal to the younger artist. Both of them were painting from the inside out, so to speak—absorbing and translating intangible phenomena into abstract compositions. Carone told Potter that when Pollock critiqued his paintings, “he judged by the unconscious imagery, not by three-dimensional form, reading the pictures in the Jungian sense. It wasn’t so much verbal as an intense communication of the moment, an empathy.” 

Pollock’s insights into Carone’s abstractions were all the more meaningful because both artists’ working method depended on impulsive psychic energy. Often the impulse was a reaction to physical and emotional stimuli that unlocked the unconscious, as Carone explained in a 1968 interview for the Archives of American Art. He described his compositions as “some sort of environment,” developed spontaneously. “I just start out automatically, you see, . . . and then it grows.” “In other words,” he continued, “there is this dialogue going on between an inner and outer world.” During the 1950s, when he was living and working in Springs while managing the Stable Gallery in Manhattan, the outer world of his immediate experience was divided between city and country. The tension of this urban-rural dichotomy is reflected in the dynamic movement, rendered in earthy tonalities, that characterizes Carone’s paintings of that decade. The small selection in this exhibition illustrates how the artist reconciled that dichotomy by allowing it to resolve itself in his imagery.

I am grateful to Joan T. Washburn and Brian Washburn of the Washburn Gallery, which represents the Carone estate, to curator Lisa Chalif and registrar William Titus of the Heckscher Museum, and to the artist’s sons Christian and Claude Carone and nephew Marc Derossi. The exhibition and catalogue would not have been possible without their cooperation and generous contributions. Dore Ashton’s analysis of Carone’s singular role in the development of the New York School is also sincerely appreciated. 

Helen A. Harrison

Eugene V. and Clare E. Thaw Director

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