JEAN XCERON (Greece, Lykosoura, Isari 1890-1967 / act: Paris & New York)
Jean Xceron was born Ioannis P. Xerocostas in 1890 at Isari of Lykosoura, in the heart of the Peloponnese, Greece. He emigrated from Greece in 1904, the first of a group of Greek American artists-to-be to come to the United States. He had been painting portraits of Greek revolutionary heroes on the walls of his father's house in Isari, and - after arriving in the United States at the age of fourteen - turned to making icons for the families he lived with in Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, and Washington, D.C. Like most immigrants, the teenage Xceron had to work hard in his relatives' businesses-hat-cleaning and candy stores, shoeshine and ice cream parlors, and kept trying to persuade them to send him to art school. In 1918 he enrolled in the Corcoran School of Art in Washington DC, and began copying plaster casts in the time-honored tradition of art instruction. For Greek Independence Day in 1918, he painted a huge temporary mural for the Treasury Building in Washington DC, portraying Greek gods and heroes together with the heroes of the Greek Revolution. He even considered earning a living as an icon painter. Instead, Xceron moved to New York to follow the avant-garde more easily. There, he met and became friendly with Uruguayan painter Joaquin Torres-Garcia (1874-1949), who urged him to liberate himself from the "baggage" of the past "in order to live in the abstract." In 1927 Xceron moved to Paris, where he lived until the late 1930s, working as a critic, and through friendships with the avant-garde learned much that his art studies had not taught him. In 1931 he had his first solo exhibition, at the Galerie de France, and the Paris art world discovered a fine new painter of geometric abstraction. [Katerina Koskina - The J.F. Costopoulos Foundation]
In 1938, Xceron read the signs of impending war like many other European artists and intellectuals and moved permanently with his wife to New York. In 1939, he took a job as a guard at the Guggenheim Museum, which already housed many of his best works. Hilla Rebay (1890-1967), whose Museum of Non-Objective Painting formed the basis of the Guggenheim's collection, considered Xceron to be one of America's most important abstract painters; he once proposed to remodel the fountain at the bottom of the museum's spiral ramp, covering it with a colorful tile mosaic of his own design, although the project was never carried out. Arising from his refined sensibility, Xceron's work is characterized by syncopated rhythms and a rigorous geometry. He continued to work as a guard at the museum and to exhibit his work regularly until his death in 1967.
"Xceron has reversed the customary function of light, for instead of using light to reveal form, he arranged to have it swallow shapes, dissolving the crispest forms in the process. He created a mysterious dawn, in which light absorbs rather than illuminates his pure geometry." [Daniel Robbins]
Jean Xceron presented the following personal exhibitions: Galerie de France, Paris (1931); Galerie Percier, Paris (1933, 1934); Garland Gallery, New York (1935); Nierendorf Gallery, New York (1938); Bennington College, Vermont (1944); Museum of New Mexico, Santa Fe, New Mexico (1948); University of New Mexico, Albuquerque (1948); UCLA Art Gallery, California (1949); Art Center, La Jolla, California (1949); Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, California (1949); Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington (1949); Janis Gallery, New York (1950); Rose Fried Gallery, New York (1955, 1957, 1960); and Newcomb College, Tulane University, New Orleans, Lousiaina (1957). § Artworks by Jean Xceron are kept at the following public institutions: A.E. Gallatin Collection, The Berkshire Museum, Pittsfield, Massachusetts; The American College of Greece - ACG Art, Athens; Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts; Cahiers d'Art, Paris; Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Department of Fine Arts, Washington University of Saint Louis; Farnsworth Art Museum, Wellesley College, Massachusetts; Johnson Art Gallery, University of New Mexico; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museum of Fine Arts, University of Georgia; New York University, New York; Phillips Memorial Gallery, Washington DC; Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe, Germany; Tel-Aviv Museum, Israel; University of Illinois, Urbana. [Megakles Rogakos]
THOMAS M. MESSER & DANIEL ROBBINS Jean Xceron 1965 The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York