Ralph Brancaccio


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Ralph Brancaccio
About the author

As a multi-disciplined, self-taught conceptual artist, my work is mostly social commentary or politically motivated, whether working in paint, installation/multimedia, or printmaking. My aesthetic is clean-lined, refined, organized and precise. Unlike the rest of the work, my paintings are more traditional studio works, done in a time of meditation or self-reflection. I use simple geometric shapes, painted in a cool, saturated palette. A white field is used as negative space to form the compositions, in which I reach for harmony and serenity. I find active engagement with the world through the placement of temporary art in public space or by creating on-site work. I often use familiar objects in installations in thought-provoking ways. Viewers are sometimes placed in an uncomfortable situation in order to question and re-examine their ideas or assumptions. My hope is to cultivate positive change over time through projects like “Military Un-Intelligence”, using landmines or guns of war in “Holy Ghost” or T-shirts in “T-shirt Tirade” or underwear in “Underneath it ALL”. New York Foundation for the Arts is my umbrella organization and I have created two projects with them: “Silent March for HIV Prevention” and the “Y Project”. “Silent March” uses shoes belonging to people with HIV and AIDS, promoting non-discriminating AIDS awareness. I state, “AIDS makes no choices, You Do”. This project came at a time when I felt people needed to understand the devastating affect of AIDS through an identifiable medium. “The Y Project”, a touring temporary public installation, uses the letter Y to represent the word why. Y steel sculptures stand ten feet tall and sport an engraved word running vertically down the letters base. (Y Art, Y Think, Y Care, etc.) I ask, “Why do we live so comfortably with an imbalance of human equality and irresponsibility”. “Untitled”, was created for a show at the Cambridge Arts Council titled “Dimensions Varied; Site Fixed”. Portraits of soldiers killed in Iraq are memorialized in the star field of the American Flag. It is called ‘Untitled” for I feel there are no words in any language I know that can fully express my emotion and dismay about the Iraq War. It wasn’t until my late twenties that I realized art would be my life’s work. The pivotal act that cemented this decision was a series of five mono prints made off a manhole cover titled, “Mandela: a man and his Freedom” from Basel, Switzerland. I canvass city streets around the world to find inspiring jewels. The manhole cover has become my printing plate. Sometimes I print the entire cover, and sometimes I reproduce particular elements from its design. These extrapolated elements divorce from the cover’s original blueprint and tell a story. Sometimes I let dirt on the manhole cover transfer to the paper, leaving a ghostly impression of the original design. I also control an embossing effect by adjusting the pressure of my hands as I press the paper against the manhole cover. Color amplifies the narrative image and it can reflect the cultural environment of where I am working. The wear of the plate exposed to the elements creates its own magic. When I sign the prints, I include the exact street address, city, and country in which I found it, as well as the date it was printed. This body of work is quite extensive. I started it in 1990. "A Visual Travel Diary", published in 2009, describes the work in detail.