The artist Joe Stefanelli, who died in 2017, belonged to the art movement Abstract Expressionism of the New York School. That art movement – with its famous representatives such as Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline and Willem de Kooning – made its appearance in the world of art in the forties and fifties with their legendary innovations and helped New York achieve the status of an internationally leading art metropolis for the first time.
After studying at the Philadelphia Museum School of Art and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, from 1942 to 1946 Joe Stefanelli served in the US Army working as a combat illustrator.
He gathered his first experience with avant-garde ideas within the art scene as of 1947, when he enrolled in Hans Hofmann’s School of Fine Arts in New York City. The latter’s art school, which opened in 1934, exerted a great influence on the young painters of the New York School.
In 1950 the two important art critics Meyer Shapiro and Clement Greenberg selected works by Stefanelli for their “New Talent Show” at the Kootz Gallery in New York. Shortly afterwards, Franz Kline invited Joe Stefanelli to take part in the legendary “9th Street Show”: its in May 1951 by Leo Castelli can be regarded as the official birth of Abstract Expressionism.
For Stefanelli that constituted his introduction into the circle of those famous Abstract Expressionists and the beginning of his career as an artist.
In one of his articles about the artist, John Russell, the art critic of the New York Times, wrote: “Joe Stefanelli is regarded as one of the leading minds of the New York School. He is an outstanding artist who is not easy to categorise. He creates contrasts between generous sweeping movements with a paint-laden brush and strong, straight lines (which
might possibly be drawn with the handle of the brush). He is very convincing amidst that hazardous terrain where red and violet meet and succeeds in marrying pink and pale blue in a way that had been forgotten since the death of Raoul Dufys. He has a clear repertoire of shapes – circle, triangle, rectangle – and he can make them do somersaults over the entire canvas.“
From 1960 until 1979, Joe Stefanelli had various teaching assignments, among other things at the University of California, Princeton University, New York University, Columbia University, Brooklyn College and Temple University in Rome.
His works can be found in numerous museums and collections, among other things at the Whitney Museum of American Art, in the collection of the Chase Manhattan Bank, at the Walker Art Institute, at the Art Institute of Chicago, at the Corcoran Gallery, at the Albright Museum and in the Walter P. Chrysler Collection. His works have already been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art as well.
In Germany the Ludwig Museum in Koblenz showed a retrospective in 2006.
In the year 2000 Joe Stefanelli was honoured with the prize of the New York Krasner Pollock Foundation for his life’s work; in 2005 he received the Benjamin Altman Prize for painting from the National Academy Museum.