Rocco Armento (October 25, 1924 – December 30, 2011) was an American sculptor, painter, and member of the NO!art movement that formed in New York City from the late 1950s to the early 1960s. Called an “American Psycho-Social Phenomenon” and a direct reaction to the restrictive and confirming culture of the McCarthy era, one of the movement’s chief instigators, Boris Lurie, described NO!art as “coming from the soul of the artist under social neglect, arising out of the slum-neighborhoods of New York.”
Harold Rosenberg — the sometimes acerbic critic who originated the term “action painting” and whose writings served as a manifesto for Abstract Expressionism — called the NO!art artists the “legitimate heirs of Dada … showing a natural enmity to cool, slick Pop” and to commercially-successful artists he called “housetrained kittens.”
It is through this lens that Armento’s work is best appreciated: powerfully expressive and, at times, unabashedly crude, making use of whatever materials were at hand. The influences of Picasso and Giacometti resonate, but don’t overwhelm.
Born in 1924 in Manhattan, Armento served in the U.S. Air Force during World War II. After the war, the G.I. Bill enabled him to study at the Art Students League in New York and the Académie de la Grande Chaumière, Paris. He was active in the New York art scene from the mid-50s on, exhibiting at the March Gallery, Tanager Gallery, and the Gallery Gertrude Stein. His work has also been exhibited at the Block Art Museum at Northwestern University, the Neue Gesellschaft für Bildende Kunst in Berlin, the University of Iowa Museum of Art, and the Chelsea Art Museum in Manhattan.
Armento lived in Woodstock, New York from 1969 until his death in 2011, making art in his self-built geodesic dome studio. His son, Benjamin Armento, has preserved hundreds of the artist’s sculptures, paintings, and works on paper and manages the artist’s estate.
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