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Caio Fonseca
Birth Date: 
Birth Place: 
New York, NY
American painter and printmaker Caio Fonseca uses abstract shapes and strong colors to create striking works informed by his training as a classical pianist and a student of musical composition. Born in New York City in 1959, his father Gonzalo Fonseca (1922-1997) was a Uruguayan-born sculptor and his mother Elizabeth Kaplan Fonseca (b. 1929) is a painter. Her father Jacob M. Kaplan was the long-time head of the Welch Grape Juice Company, and the creator of the J. M. Kaplan Fund, an active philanthropic organization. Gonzalo Fonseca maintained studios in Greenwich Village and Pietrasanta, Italy, a Tuscan village near the Ligurian Sea. Fonseca grew up spending summers in Pietrasanta with his father among the stone carvers of the region. He showed musical talent at an early age and began taking piano lesions at age nine. After high school he attended Brown University for a year, but decided he wanted to be a painter and left in 1978 to follow his brother Bruno (1958-1994) to Barcelona where Fonseca studied figurative drawing and painting under Augusto Torres (1913-1992), whose father Joaquin Torres-Garcia (1874-1949) had taught Gonzalo in Uruguay. He studied only figurative art, first in many drawings and then in paintings, including portraits, still-lifes and landscapes. In 1983 he left Barcelona for Montevideo, Uruguay for two years, and then moved to Pietrasanta. Fonseca’s first solo exhibition was at the Villa D’elatre in nearby Lucca in 1985. He stayed and worked in Pietrasanta until 1989, when he moved to Paris. His second solo show was at Galeria Anna Ricart in Barcelona in 1991. Fonseca returned to New York City the following year, and in 1993 the Charles Cowles Gallery there gave him a show that established his reputation. The show sold out, with New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art buying one of the works. Fonseca also returned to the piano and studied for a time with Leonid Hambro (1920-2006), a former principal pianist for the New York Philharmonic and one-time concert partner of the Danish pianist and comic Victor Borge (1909-2000). Fonseca has said that his study of form and structure in musical compositions helps him to think about form and structure in his paintings and prints. Fonseca continued painting, with participation in many group exhibitions and series of gallery shows in New York City galleries, first in Charles Cowles Gallery, then Knoedler & Co. and finally with Paul Kasmin Gallery. San Francisco’s John Berggruen Gallery held three solo exhibitions of Fonseca’s works in 1996, 1998 and 2002. He had solo shows in university art museums in 1999, at Duke University and University of California at San Diego. In 1998 Fonseca began making prints at the Paulson Press, first in Emeryville and later in Berkeley, Calif., all aquatints or etchings with aquatint. Since then he has created 46 prints with the Press (now known as the Paulson Fontaine Press), most recently in 2014. A solo exhibition of Fonseca’s work appeared at the Institut Valencià d’Art Modern of Valencia, Spain, followed the next year by a solo show at the Corcoran Gallery, Washington, D.C. For some years Fonseca has divided his time between New York City and Pietrasanta, living and working in his East Village studio from the fall through the spring year and spending summers in his studio in Italy. With his mother and two sisters and other descendants of J. M. Kaplan he serves as a trustee of the J. M. Kaplan Fund. And he keeps a 1907 Mason & Hamlin CC grand piano (9 feet and 3 inches long) in his New York studio on which he plays the works of Bach and Brahms. (TNB 5/2017) Selected bibliography: Institut Valencià d’Art Modern. Caio Fonseca. Exhibition catalog. Valencia: Institut Valelncià d’Art Modern, 2003.