Embracing the past, present, and future of New York City and celebrating its cultural diversity.

Picturing New York: Paintings by Vincent La Gambina

View selections from the exhibition (text follows below):

Oil on canvas, 1973
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Mott Street Festival
Oil on canvas, 1954
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Old Ferry Boat
Oil on canvas, 1964
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The Life Cafeteria
Oil on canvas, 1936
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Picturing New York: Paintings by Vincent La Gambina
was on view at the Museum of the City of New York
October 19, 1995 - November 20, 1995

Through the eyes of painter Vincent La Gambina, the spectacle of urban life appeared vibrant and intriguing. His paintings and water colors, on display beginning October 19, 1995, at the Museum of the City of New York, reveal the changing moods and rhythms of the metropolitan terrain. Picturing New York: Paintings by Vincent La Gambina is an exhibition of paintings that show the character of the New York Cityscape with passion, originality, and freshness.

Vincent La Gambina was a highly accomplished artist who discovered beauty in every aspect of life. Born in Agrigento, Sicily, in 1909, he emigrated to New York City when he was only eleven years old. As a young man, he became deeply enmeshed in the pulsating milieu of Manhattan's Union Square and Greenwich Village where one of the most creative chapters in America's cultural history unfolded.

Despite hardships during the Great Depression of the 1930s and the continued scarcity of commissions, Vincent La Gambina, unlike many of his social realist contemporaries, declined to dwell on the difficulties of his existence. Instead, as this exhibition affirms, La Gambina used his craft to project his love of life and the joy that he found in his work. During the WPA years, he worked as an easel painter, supervisor, and muralist in various WPA programs. Later, after service in the U.S. Army, he won veterans' scholarships at the Arts Student League and the Academy of Rome. By the 1940s, La Gambina owned and operated his own art school in Washington Square.

Before his death in 1994, Vincent La Gambina lived in Brooklyn for about 30 years. Scouting the streets of Brooklyn, Coney Island, and Greenwich Village for the source of many of his paintings, La Gambina found beauty in the kaleidoscopic New York scene. The content of his paintings provide a lens into the history of the city. In his painting, Mott Street Festival, La Gambina conveys with brilliant color the amiable commotion of the Neopolitan saint's day celebrated throughout Little Italy and Chinatown. Coney Island Beach Scene vividly portrays the crowded beaches of Coney Island with the melting pot of humanity unified by their desire to escape the city's sweltering heat. The artist was impressed with the forty-story Municipal Building, designed by McKim, Mead, and White in 1914, that stands at the crossroads of city, state, and federal government in New York. Chambers Street reflects the grandness of the structure, sometimes referred to as the Gate of the city, and the dwarfing effect it had on the people that passed through it.

La Gambina took on the challenge of combining Renaissance composition and Impressionist color. His compositions show a fluent, free-flowing brush and his figures reflect a sense of volume. Although his vision was personal and his works sometimes touched with nostalgia, he addressed issues that are implicitly universal and easy to understand. His paintings are not only charming, they have a sensitivity and originality that awakens our consciousness In both his early and later paintings, he communicated an aesthetic pleasure as he portrayed the seasons of life and the people who touched him.

In Merry-Go-Round, La Gambina pours out memories of his own joyful visits to Feltsman's Carousel in Coney Island. The artist depicts a broad range of summer costumes in the foreground figures to suggest the universality of the merry-go-round's appeal. Old Ferry Boat was the product of an expedition to Staten Island where this decrepit boat, sitting at a repair dock in St. George, saddened the artist who equated its fate with that of people who are deserted when they are old.

Vincent La Gambina's paintings have been displayed throughout the United States. He participated in many major exhibitions in the country and won numerous awards Almost all of the canvases featured in this show are presented in their original frames made by the artist.

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