Frank Koci (1904-1983) was a self-taught San Francisco painter who rose to prominence in the Beat Era when he began to sell his work at Vesuvio's in North Beach. Described by his friends as "the last of a dying breed, the working class intellectual," Frank Koci's paintings were inspired by Mankind with all of its warts and blemishes. His subjects ranged from frumpish nudes in barrooms to Old World style cityscapes, but Koci concentrated primarily on authority figures-- uniformed military men and Catholic nuns-- which he treated with a combination of satire and hallucinatory intensity.
The result is, Koci's art work is as colorful as his life. He was born in Czechoslovakia in 1904 and made his way to America in 1921 at age 16 in pursuit of better opportunities. Koci's journey took him through Paris, Ellis Island, and New Orleans, then on to stints in Texas milking cows and to Hollywood working as a movie extra in films such as The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923). Changing course yet again, he took for the high seas, working for thirty years as a Merchant Marine. Finally, after what he called "continuous rounds of profligacy, sin and meditation," he retired from manual labor and "took up journalism, art and vicarious pleasures" in San Francisco, trolling the streets for inspiration.
Call him a Beat artist, a Street artist, an Outsider artist or a uniquely inspired artist who lived a singular American life, Frank Koci lives on through his immense body of work, 1000+ paintings scattered all around the world. His pieces are housed in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian, the New York Museum of Modern Art, and the Oakland Art Museum.
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