Born in Buffalo, New York, in 1930, Allan D’Arcangelo was an American painter and printmaker active during the Pop Art period. D’Arcangelo studied at the State University of New York, Buffalo, following which he moved to New York. After serving in the US Army, he spent time painting in Mexico City. In 1959, D’Arcangelo returned to New York. Having previously embraced Abstract Expressionism, he now rejected it. By the early 1970s, D’Arcangelo had established a position for himself in the New York art scene, alongside such figures as Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol. D’Arcangelo was best known for his renderings of highway and road signs in vibrant colours, sharp geometry, and solid shapes. He died on December 17, 1998, in New York City. D’Arcangelo’s works are held in several important collections, including the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
Like many other Pop Art artists, D’Arcangelo was concerned about the social, political, and moral issues of the day. He painted U.S. Highway 1 series in 1962, as a response to the rising popularity of interstate highway travel in the United States. This transportation infrastructure, a product of the thriving automobile industry, symbolizes American freedom and its availability to all citizens. Although known for highway images, D’Arcangelo’s print Untitled (1966) appears to show an empty, bevelled square lying over the centre of the print. This square obscures the focal point, toward which a painted crosswalk proceeds, from view. Interestingly, in the upper part of the print, the objects in the background—which appear to be trees—are blurred suggesting a view from a vehicle moving at high velocity. Peeking out from the right of the central square is a small, white triangle containing a dab of red ink that appears to be moving to the right, like the trees.
The artist’s use of hard-edged shapes and surreal compositions are likely the reasons why Canadian painter David Thauberger took a great interest in D’Arcangelo’s work. D’Arcangelo’s lithographic print Untitled (1966) came to the MacKenzie’s collection through a large donation from Thauberger and his wife, Veronica, that included several examples of American and British Pop Art. Pop has always served as an inspiration for Thauberger. As a reaction against modernism, Pop re-introduced identifiable imagery drawn from mass media and pop culture and blurred the boundaries between “high” and “low” culture, ideas that have interested Thauberger throughout his career.
Timothy Long, Head Curator
Tak Pham, Assistant Curator