Richard Nocera was born in Waltham, Massachusetts, in 1973. His formal introduction to the arts occurred at the distinguished Cambridge School of Weston, where serious emphasis was placed on drawing, painting and sculpture. Following his graduation in 1992, Nocera attended The Parsons School of Design in New York City. During his time at Parsons, his techniques broadened and he was accepted into the prestigious Parsons Paris Program. He studied painting from 1994 to 1996, before financial constraints forced him to return to North America. Nocera briefly settled in Canada’s Old Montreal Art District, where he began to paint independently and establish himself as a working artist. Nocera returned to New York in 1997, acquiring a studio in the Meatpacking District. He was awarded an apprenticeship with well-known Canadian artist Attila Richard Lukacs. Under Lukacs’s tutelage, Nocera began using large trowels, gesso and tar to create massive, heavily textured background surfaces onto which Attila applied his figures. Incorporating this technique into his own figurative work, Nocera’s imagery was no longer his primary focus. The painting’s surface became an additional focus of concentration, laying the foundation for the methods and materials he would return to 20 years later.
During his time with Lukacs Nocera was introduced to Christopher Dawes, a British collector and major patron of the arts. Dawes awarded Nocera a private artist’s residency in the Channel Islands where he could paint free from distractions. Dawes acquired the entirety of Nocera’s output there, and subsequently commissioned him to create a new series of paintings, “It’s All About Marketing” for a solo exhibition scheduled for 1999 in London. Tragically, shortly before the London show was to open, Mr. Dawes died in a car crash, and the show never came to fruition. The Dawes Estate in London purchased all the paintings produced for the thwarted exhibition. Today, the entire body of work hangs in a private space in London.
Following Christopher Dawes’s death, Nocera returned to New York, establishing a studio in Williamsburg where he continued doing private commissions while assembling a new body of work. He created a series titled “Who Has Next?” which focused on large scale, heavily textured, tar-and-oil portraits of African American men playing pickup games of basketball. The series was displayed at the Jersey City Art Tour, receiving such positive press and strong reviews that it went on to be shown at Gallery 49 in Manhattan.
In 2002, shortly after (and largely resulting from) the September 11th attacks, Nocera relocated to upstate New York. Inspired by his rural surroundings, he found himself less interested in the figure, so he returned to making the kind of “background” previously inspired by Lukacs. Nocera began to redefine this method for himself. His application of material became his sole means of expression. His first one-man show of abstract works, titled “Metamorphosis,” was held at Pendulum Gallery in Saugerties, New York. For seven years, Nocera focused on expanding his process-oriented approach, enriching his relationship to his medium and ultimately his relationship to himself.
Nocera moved back to the urban environment – and, for the last time, to figurative work -- in 2009, when he began painting in Bushwick. In his show “The Energy of Empathy,” which opened in the summer of 2009 at The Jan Larson Gallery in Tribeca, Nocera collaborated with journalist-photographer Brett Cala. From Cala’s candid photographs, Nocera painted powerful portraits of Southern African people.
Since 2010, Nocera has concentrated on creating black and white abstract compositions. He employs oversized trowels to push large masses of titanium white over black tarred surfaces, realizing results both deliberate and unintentional. But the relationship of black to white in these compositions does represent the potential for interracial harmony. His most recent series, “Sequoia,” named after his African-American daughter, is in response to and a direct result of her conception. Evoking the surface directly, as opposed to illustrating on it, Nocera establishes intricate relationships between light and dark, figure and ground. Through the engagement of these contrasting shades, Nocera explores his own family’s racial diversity by discerning and celebrating their similarities and their differences.
Nocera’s distinctive application of materials, along with his signature use of black tar and white titanium oil, have drawn the attention of art collectors in Hollywood, international fashion icons, and other private collectors. Recent shows at Caelum Gallery in New York and Atelier Gallery in Newport, Rhode Island, have been very well received.
Richard Nocera currently lives in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn with his wife and daughter. When he’s not spending time with his family, he is pushing the boundaries of his paintings in an effort to connect with himself and others.