Biography

Joe was born in 1933 in Puerto Rico, raised in D.C. He studied art at the Corcoran School of Art, but he is largely self taught. Looking at masterworks, lots of practice and self-criticism revealed his direction. He loved Degas for his technique, composition and even psychology; but for subjects, salty and mythic it was Picasso graphics, like “The Sculptor’s Studio” and the drawing therein that had deep impact. Joe worked for the Smithsonian for 26 years as an exhibition designer and curator. He has organized world class exhibitions, and written articles in major art magazines and newspapers, and juried many shows. He taught at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore; he lectures, and has taught at other universities. His work has been shown in galleries and museums around the world. Joe’s work is in many important collections, private and public – i.e. – The National Gallery, Hirshhorn, and Brooklyn Museums among others.

Review Snippets About Joe

  • Hilton Kramer, New York Times: “… But he is what he is, an artist of some independence and much energy and a furious talent who has declared his independence of everything current esthetic opinion has declared possible.”
  • John Ashbery, Art News: “… Shannon’s commitment to technical virtuosity and a complicated arresting vision are undeniable strengths. Even more so is his unabashed homage to the great art of the past, a homage which somehow includes him as a worthy successor. It is an ambition that few artists today would care to claim and even fewer would qualify for. But Shannon proves himself the rightful heir to the academy, and it is good to see that he has no intentions of leveling the doddering structure, even though he obviously plans to throw some pretty wild parties there.”
  • Benjamin Forgey, Washington Star: “… Shannon’s painting, in fact, may be the most forcefully original realist art to emerge in the United States in the last 25 years.”
  • Gerrit Henry, Art America: “… Shannon assuredly has a bead on disturbing the contemporary unconscious, which is to say, the things that have always disturbed it…That Shannon is able to present so dark a vision of mankind with quirky hilarity is in itself an achievement.”
  • Ferdinand Protzman, Washington Post: “… But he is also a “take it or leave it” kind of artist. Shannon is fascinated by art history and Greek mythology and uses them as sources…by mimicking the styles of masters such as Rembrandt, Degas and Picasso. I get a kick out of Shannon’s ability, energy, intellectual ambition, fearlessness and outright strangeness. I also understand why some people just can’t stand his work.”
  • John Dorsey, Baltimore Sun: “… Joe Shannon’s paintings bellow, boom, pound and sing with life-and it’s our life, every bit of it. His big, vibrant canvases, crowded with people and references to art and myth, capture a lot of what we are, what we’d like to be and what we fear.”

Writing Morsels by Joe

  • About R.B. Kitaj: “…No (other) artist not even Picasso, has been able to convey with figuration the social texture of our grim and messy century (Kitaj). The impure modernist and impure traditionalist makes every effort to wake us up, to yank us out of last year’s skin, out of our investments, our complacency, and to set us down on his searching path.”
  • On “Representation Abroad”: “The two kinds of representational drawing can be labeled ‘accurate,’ or nature depictive, and ‘stylized,’ or nature modifying. These are not opposites. (Opposites would be accurate versus abstraction, which in its purest form depicts nothing but itself.) It is impossible for a depictive artist to be wholly one or the other-accurate or stylized.”
  • About Avigdor Arikha: “…He has converted his preferences into laws. The work must be finished in one setting, which might last from one to ten hours. This is to maintain freshness-’no pentimenti,’ he says – and to add a crucible of psychological pressure, Arikha applies paint with volcanic scrubs and whacks, disintegrating hog’s hair flat and round brushes alike. This energy conveys a speed and painterliness that makes the surface appear to vibrate.”
  • About Luciano Castelli: “Castelli says that it is the sex hunt that powers the manic extravagance of his images: ‘Sexuality chases me and I chase the sexual.’ Animism, sexuality, tranvestism, narcissistic exhibitionism, as well as ramifications of the neon dangers and the attractions of sadomasochism are researched, though at times disguised – or rather camouflaged-by Castelli’s swift stroke and blazing color.”
  • Joe about Joe: “My work is the opposite of what Barbara Rose calls High Art. Greenberg implies that a painting is no more than it is, a painting “should be” literal, and concretely sensational. Emotional, my painting is always more than it is, ideally, it should interfere with the onlooker’s life…”