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Anthony Armando DeBlasi

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“So sad to hear of Tony's passing, an innovative artist and warm, gentle soul ”
1 of 1 | Posted by: John Whittaker - New York, NY


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Anthony Armando DeBlasi died at his home on November 14, 2021, after a long battle with Alzheimer's. He was 88 years old.

One of a handful of artists approaching abstract painting as a three-dimensional structure, Tony came to New York in 1983 from Michigan State as Professor of Art and showed with the Louis K. Meisel Gallery until 1996. His work eliminated the canvas replacing it with wooden shapes painted and extended from the wall, evoking dimensional drawing.

Tony was born in Alcamo, Sicily, and came to the USA with his family at the age of five. He spent his childhood in New Jersey and his high school years in Narragansett, Rhode Island. After four years of service in the Navy, Tony changed his mind about becoming a dentist and started studying art and history at the University of Rhode Island. At the age of 24, he moved to New York and attended the Art Students League where he studied with Sidney Dickenson.

He then returned to Rhode Island and got a BA in Art and History at the University of Rhode Island. This was followed by an MFA from Indiana University where he studied with William Bailey and James McGarrell. Despite having studied entirely with figurative artists, within five years of finishing his graduate work, he gravitated from realism to abstraction. This change was dictated by his interest in giving form to color rather than color to form.

Upon graduation, he became a one-person art department at Washington and Jefferson College, expanding the art program and faculty in his three years there. In 1966, he joined the Michigan State University faculty where he taught graduate and undergraduate art for 20 years.

Coming to New York from Michigan in 1983, he showed with the Razor Gallery and later at the Louis K. Meisel Gallery. He also taught at the School of Visual Arts for 2 years.

His early work in the 'Energy' and 'Calligraphy' series consisted of gestural abstract shapes of heavy-bodied paint similar to low relief. These consisted of many elements that mimicked pen or brush strokes on a larger scale that were positioned using a vinyl template. They were inspired by writing and calligraphy.

The 'Geometry' series, moved on to more solid pieces using geometric shapes to evoke the picture plane. combined with gestural, expressive larger strokes.

In 2002, after a nerve injury made working at his usual scale impossible, Tony turned to the more intricate, smaller pieces of the 'Farther Out' series that extruded up to 15" from the wall surface and created an illusory order between linear elements in an energized, open space. Spatial relationships change as the viewer leaves the frontal view, color and shape connections fall apart or are created. These culminated in his most complex piece, "What's Up With That".

The work from these series can be seen at http://tonydeblasi.com

When encroaching dementia and arthritis made dimensional work difficult, Tony was reluctantly enticed into making works on paper by his good friend and former student, David Headley. Over three years starting in 2018, working with magic markers Tony explored a wide range of mark-making and shape relationships. Some of the later works were made in collaboration with Lora Note, the home health aide caring for Tony and a woman of many talents. These 11" x 17" drawings can be seen at http://tonydeblasi.com/wordpress/

He has had one-person shows at Louis Meisel Gallery, NY; Detroit Institute of Arts; Dorothy Blau Gallery, Bay Habor, FL; Hokin-Kaufman Gallery, Chicago, IL; Grace Hokin Gallery, Bay Harbor, FL.

Museum exhibitions include the Detroit Institute of Art; the Riverside Museum in New York; the John Herron Museum of Art in Indianapolis, IN; the Flint Institute of Arts, Flint, MI; Indiana University Museum, Bloomington, IN; the Butler Institute of Arts, Youngstown, OH and the Kresge Art Museum, East Lansing, MI.

His work has also been shown at SUNY, Oneonta; NY; Wake Forest University Art Gallery, Winston-Salem, NC; and The Thirty-third Corcoran Biennial, Corcoran Gallery, Washington D.C.

Awards included the New York Foundation of the Arts Fellowship; Comfort Tiffany Foundation Fellowship; Michigan Council of the Arts Artists Grant; First prize, Fifty Eighth Exhibition for Michigan Artists, and first prize at the Chautauqua Exhibition of American Art.

He is survived by his sons, Keith DeBlasi and his wife, Jan Yetman DeBlasi; Eric DeBlasi; his brother, Joe DeBlasi, his sister Marie Adele White; grandchildren Geneva Rose DeBlasi and Simone Aurore DeBlasi and wife, Eva Machauf.