Juanita Guccione's life spanned all but four years of the 20th Century.  Cubist, realist, surrealist, automatist and abstract strains are all to be found in her work, but by 1970 she was painting works in watercolor and acrylic that no longer included the human figure or the observed world.  She was the younger sister of the abstract geometric artist Irene Rice Pereira.  The sisters were born in Chelsea, MA, but spent most of their working lives in Manhattan.

In the early 1930s, Guccione, then painting as Nita Rice, lived for four years among the Ouled Nail Bedouin tribe in eastern Algeria.  Her paintings from this period are devoid of the flamboyant romanticism of the Orientalist painters.  She painted the Bedouin as friends and neighbors, reflecting the anti-colonialist attitude of her native land.  These paintings were shown in The Brooklyn Museum in 1935.

When she returned from Algeria in 1935 the United States was in economic free-fall. After the Brooklyn Museum exhibit the Algerian work was shut away as she immersed herself in an avant-garde then fomenting revolutionary artistic changes.  Guccione began painting as Anita Rice, changed her name to Juanita Rice, then to Juanita Marbrook, and finally to Juanita Guccione after marrying Dominick J. Guccione in the mid-1940s.

Guccione worked on Post Office murals for the WPA Federal Works Progress Administration during the 1930s.  During World War II she came under the influence of the refugee French surrealists. She studied with Hans Hofmann for seven years.  Hofmann expressed high regard for her work and gave her a number of scholarships.  Her mid-career surrealist paintings do not share the literary interests of many of her European contemporaries. They portray a magical and whimsical world ruled by women.  Their brilliant palette, though not their subject matter, reflects Hofmann's influence. She turned to acrylics shortly after their appearance on their market at the urging of her son due to her fast-paced working style. 

Guccione's work was shown in Manhattan, Paris, Beirut, Bombay, San Francisco, Washington, Provincetown, PalBeach, Pittsburgh, Miami, Algiers and other Algerian cities.

She was unusually reclusive, and this trait often thwarted enthusiasts attempting to promote and celebrate her work.  Her reclusiveness, her name changes, and the critics' difficulty in characterizing her work deprived her of the recognition she might otherwise have received.

Nonetheless, the respected French novelist and critic Michel Georges-Michel wrote in the early 1950s that she was one of a very few American artists who interested him, this at a time when abstract expressionism was the rage and America was establishing its claim to importance in taste-making.

Describing her long career, the former Washington Post art critic Michael Welzenbach wrote in 1992: "This kind of artistic evolution hardly fits into the inimically popular contemporary trend of modifying one's style to keep abreast of fashionable changes in the mainstream art world. And it is precisely this single-minded approach to her work, this willingness to follow its development wherever that might lead, that locates Guccione squarely among the few but formidable ranks of the modernist avant-garde--a group whose integrity and vision will not be seen again in this century."

No one, probably not even Guccione, reckoned how prolific and restless her career had been until her works were collected after her death.  Her reputation had come to rest on the surrealist oils of her middle years, while the more abstract and adventurous acrylic and watercolor work of her later years was little known.

The extraordinarily reticent artist hinted at her own view of her later work when she wrote to a purchaser that she did not imagine the work, she saw it.

Guccione was a respected teacher, perhaps because of her reticence.  She was able to impart ideas and techniques by guiding her students' hands and by working alongside them, rather than lecturing them.  She taught at the Art Students League and at Cooper Union.

The large body of work she left poses a special challenge to feminists because she created in her middle years a peaceable otherworld ruled entirely by women.  Of feminists she was fond of remarking, "I'm not at all interested in what they say, only in what they do."

The French writer and poet Anais Nin, whose portrait Guccione painted several times, said of her work, "Our dreams are often diffuse and fragmented. Juanita makes them cohesive and clear, as clear as the daily world.  Few people can paint the world of our dreams with as much magic, precision, and clarity.  It makes the myths by which we live as vivid and dramatic as our diurnal life."


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