A selection of 11 oil paintings by Vincent Desiderio is on display in Haverford College's Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery until September 15, 2002. Desiderio, a 1977 Haverford College alumnus, dedicates the show to his friend and fellow alumnus Jon Mednick, class of 1980, who passed away last year.
Desiderio is described as an American Contemporary Realist, blending the techniques of the Old Masters with a postmodern ambivalence. Donald Kuspit, author of The Rebirth of Painting in the Late Twentieth Century, calls the artist a "poet-painter…[who] is able to condense into a single halluncinatory work a contradictory variety of emotions and ideas, in a way that makes it clear that painting is a unique power of subliminal, imaginative communication." The New York Times' Michael Kimmelman praises Desiderio's "surreal, twilight images of domestic scenes mixed with art historical allusions."
Three of his 2002 paintings-Isthmus, Trinity, and Idol-make their debut in the Haverford exhibit. Several works are inspired by Desiderio's son Sam, a victim of a chronic birth defect; these include 1990's Study For a Hero's Life, depicting his sleeping son on mechanical life support, and his 1992 portrait of Sam and his grandfather in a quiet moment, entitled Savant, that earned Desiderio the 1996 Grand Prize of S.A.S. Prince Rainier III at the
Thirteenth Annual Show of Contemporary Art in Monte Cristo, Monaco. Desiderio was the first North American artist to receive the award. All works are on loan from the Marlborough Gallery in New York City, which represents Desiderio and will exhibit these same paintings in December of 2003.
Born in Philadelphia, Desiderio received a bachelor's degree in fine arts/art history from Haverford and went on to study at the Academia di Belle Arti in Florence, Italy, from 1977-78. He earned a four-year certificate from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1983. His works have been displayed in museums in Philadelphia; New York City; Washington, D.C.; Denver; Minneapolis; Montreal, Canada; and Aachen, Germany. He has been awarded Rome, Pollock-Krasner, and NEA grants.
Vincent Desiderio's academic triptych The Progress of Self Love presents enigmatic scenes that share certain visual and thematic correspondences. According to Firestone, not enough has been said about the work's commentary on the art of the 1980s or its own position within the currents of that decade. Moreover, the Melvillean themes apparent in the work have not been connected to similar references in recent American art. Desiderio's work intentionally courts ambiguity, but Firestone nevertheless finds a coherent structure in the joining of a late-phase modernism critique and Melvillean allusion...
The Progress of Self Love (a review from American Art, Spring 2002)