by Patricia Frischer
The Art of Joe Caroff at Sergott Contemporary Art Alliance until Aug 17, 2018
Celebrating a career that spans over eighty years, Joe Caroff recently commemorated his 75th wedding anniversary and will be turning 97 this August. His investigations into the nature of abstraction have covered a wide range of media including prints, drawings, collages, paper works, and large-scale paintings. The Art of Joe Caroff presented by Sergott Contemporary Art Alliance in Rancho Santa Fe. For more info: Tom Sergott 858-756-2377 Showing until Aug 17 by appointment.
Joseph Caroff was born in 1921 one year after my own mother and he is 97 this year. He has lived and worked in New York City his whole life. Tom Sergott’s mother knew this artist and gave a small painting to Tom when he was quite young. Sergott’s mother loved the theater and Sergott even contemplated going into the arts, but instead turned his hand to the art of surgery. This relationship between artist Joe and his admirer Tom has lasted a life time, almost like a father and son.
When Tom Sergott retired he learned more about the visual arts and realized that Caroff had a treasure trove of painting which has not received the recognition they deserved. Caroff was known for his graphic design business he had established in 1965. He has credits in over 300 film campaigns including West Side Story, Barbarella, Greatest Story Ever Told, plus Orion Film logo, the Fox trademark, 18 covers for Decca Records, 20/20, ABC News, ABC/Olympics, Turning Point, lots of NY Racing Association logos including Belmont, Aquaduct and Sarasota and probably the most famous logo for the James Bond series.
During and before the war, he had been class president at the prestigious Pratt Institute of Design. He had designed propaganda leaflets air-dropped in Europe. He was a B-17 armorer in the 8th Armey Air Force working in maintenance and army intelligence. He created and taught art classes but is probably best remembered for the naughty pictures of women he painted on B-17.
In 1980, he retired from the commercial art world to concentrate on his paintings but not before winning the National Award for Best Toy Package. He continued to use his graphic skills to help in fundraising especially medical and museums charities.
Caroff has had New York exhibitions including his series The Terni Suite, 1986, The Iconic Metaphor, 1990, and Controlled Gesture. In 2011 he wrote a psychographic portfolio drawn while sitting up called all lying down and he showed The Liberated Line at the Painting Center in 2012.
Tom Sergott decided to help shine more light on Joe Caroff. Caroff designed a logo for Sergott Contemporary Art Alliance and Sergott started to display his work along with the work of other San Diego regional artist in art fair throughout the county. Sergott expanded to include artist he discovered all across America and in his travels especially to Cuba and Mexico. Sergott also has a permanent display gallery in Rancho Santa Fe where you can see this retrospective.
What a joy it was to see all these works by Joe Caroff. I had seen many pieces over the years but it is rare to see a grouping from artist that spans so many years all beautifully displayed in one place. You can tell the loving attention with which Tom Sergott has arranged the works to best show them off with the help of co-curator and installed by Juno Grace Lee. Beautiful flower arrangements by his wife Ann grace the space.
The work actually reflects the history of art from about the 1920’s on. There are works that reference Braque’s cubism, Leger’s mechanical renditions, and glide into abstraction. But I am particularly attracted to the works from 2012 which can really be considered his late work, when he returns to his roots of graphic design. The line is always important in his work, but in these brilliant compositions, the line literally comes off the page. Many artists start to fade in their later years, and many go back to a previous style, but Caroff, like Matisse, has found a way to invent a style all his own which is bold and relevant.
These are precious work, with amazingly low prices, and they should be seen and appreciated. Many thanks go to Tom Sergott for bringing this art to San Diego.