re - Figure Holding the SunFigure
Holding the Sun by Italo Scanga 1988
Fairmont Plaza at San Jose Museum of Art
art SAN JOSE MUSEUM OF ART
Address: 110 South Market Street
San Jose, CA 95133-2383
Open Tuesday - Sunday.A striking
sculpture of brilliant colors stands on
the plaza in front of the San Jose
Museum of Art (SJMA). Like so many of
his public art installations, this work
by Italo Scanga called "Figure Holding
the Sun" immediately grabs you into the
space in which the piece is placed.
Other such examples of Scanga sculptures
include the whimsical figures
"Continents" at the San Diego
International Airport. Imagery to make
you smile, these public installations
are happy, colorful and fun. Scanga was
a master of color and form. Utilizing
extremely bright hues in defined blocks
of color against subtle tones, Scanga
was able to turn color & form into
statements you cannot ignore. The
Calabria-born artist lived from 1932 to
2001. He moved to the US in 1947 and set
the world on fire with his original art.
He eventually lived in La Jolla and
taught at the University of California
San Diego. He acquired two gallery
studios in San Diego and also worked on
creating a museum of his work in his
hometown of Lago, Calabria, when he died
of heart failure on July 27 at his San
Diego Turquoise Street studio at age 69.
The world was graced by a master, as is
San Jose, where Scanga's work is on
public display 24/7.Figure Holding the
Sun is near circle of palm trees and
picnic s with colorful shade umbrellas.
The museum operates partly out of a
striking 1892 post-office building with
a clock tower, and partly out of the
adjacent modern building that opened in
1991. Bright red cloth paneling across
the front of the new building announces
the museum's name.
SJMA is not large for a big-city museum,
but the quality of the work on display
is high. The museum has a permanent
collection of 1,200 20th-century works,
with an emphasis on post-1980 Bay Area
artists. It also imports exhibits from
New York's Whitney Museum of American
Exhibits are interesting and include
contemporary painting, photography, and
more. There are jazz or classical music
concerts the first Wednesday of each
month, and free children's programs on
the last Sunday of each month. Poetry
and book readings, Sunday afternoon jazz
concerts in the winter, and daily tours
round out the calendar of events.
Visitors can also enjoy the cafe and
San Jose Museum of Art. 110 S Market St
San Jose, CA 95113-2383
Figure Holding the Sun Italo Scanga 1988
Fairmont Plaza @ SJMA: exterior Painted
1939-1945 Prepares to leave with his
mother for America to meet his father
and brother. American troops invade
Italy on the day of departure and they
are unable to leave. Spends the war
years in Lago with his mother and very
little resources. Works as a
cabinetmaker's apprentice and studies
sculpture with a man who carves statues
1947 Emigrates to America with his
mother to Pt. Marion, PA where his
father works as a laborer for the
1950 Moves to Garden City, MI with his
family and works at General Motors
lifting transmissions on an assembly
1951-1953 Studies at the Society of Arts
and Crafts in Detroit, MI.
1953 Due to his language barrier
graduates from Garden City High School
at the age of 21 while continuing to
work evenings at General Motors.
1953-1955 Serves in the US Army,
stationed in Austria in an armored tank
1956 Marries Mary Louise Ashley, a
librarian at the Garden City Public
Library. Moves to East Lansing, MI where
he enrolls at Michigan State University.
1956 First son, Italo Antonio Amadeo
1958 Father, Guiseppe dies in Garden
1959 Daughter, Katherine Elizabeth (Cici)
born. Look Magazine commissions him to
do a photographic "human story" about
his mother, a widow immigrant, returning
with her to Calabria (where she remains
until the end of her life). Publishes a
book of these photographs in 1979.
1960 Graduates from Michigan State
University with a BA. Meets Richard
Merkin and David Pease, fellow students
who remain friends throughout his life.
Studies under Lyndsey Decker who
introduces him to welding and sculpture
after his initial interest in
photography. Also studies with Charles
Pollock, brother of Jackson Pollock.
1961 Receives an MA degree from Michigan
State University. First teaching job at
University of Wisconsin (through 1964).
Meets Harvey Littleton, a fellow
instructor. Lives in faculty housing.
1962 Daughter Serafina Annaliese (Sarah)
1963 Son Guiseppe Edward (Joe) born.
1964 Moves to Providence, RI to teach at
Rhode Island School of Design (RISD).
Colleagues with artists Richard Merkin
and Hardu Keck. Starts a correspondence
with HC Westermann. Spends summers
teaching at Brown University, colleague
of Hugh Townley.
1966 Moves to State College, PA and
teaches at Pennsylvania State University
for one year. Meets artists Juris Ubans,
Harry Anderson, Richard Frankel, and
Richard Calabro, who remain friends
throughout his career.
Philadelphia Studio Assistants
1967 David Pease helps him get a tenure
track position at Tyler School of Art in
Philadelphia, PA and the family moves to
Glenside, PA. Artists he works closely
with include Ernest Silva, Lee Jaffe,
Donald Gill, and William Schwedler.
Meets graduate student Dale Chihuly
while lecturing at RISD and develops a
1969 Son, William Frankel (Bill) born.
One person exhibition, Baylor Art
Gallery, Baylor University, Waco, TX.
Buys his first home in Glenside, PA at
2225 Menlo Avenue. Works in his basement
studio, creates installations with farm
implements, herbs, glass containers and
saint iconography. Works very closely
with students Larry Becker and Heidi
Nivling (who later run a gallery in
Philadelphia, PA), and Harry Anderson.
Welcomes many artists into his home
including Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, Bruce
Nauman (a former student), Vito Acconci,
Ree Morton and Rafael Ferrer.
1970 Exhibits "Saints, Glass, Tools, and
Romances" at Atelier Chapman Kelly,
Dallas, TX, one of his first one-person
installations. Included in the sculpture
annual at the Whitney Museum of American
Art, NYC. Receives Howard Foundation
grant from Brown University.
1971 Collaborates with Dale Chihuly and
Jamie Carpenter pouring molten glass
into bamboo at RISD. Exhibits the work
at Museum of Art, Vassar College,
Poughkeepsie, NY. Teaches summer school
at University of Rhode Island, Kingston,
RI (through 1973) and has a show,
"Christ & Pythagoras." Shows an
installation at Henri Gallery,
1972 Solo exhibition at the Whitney
Museum of American Art, NYC.
Installations at the Clocktower, NYC and
Virginia Commonwealth University,
Richmond, VA. Teaches in Rome, Italy for
Tyler School of Art.
1973 "Saints Glass" at 112 Greene Street
Gallery, NYC. Installation at the
Institute of Contemporary Art at
University of Pennsylvania,
Philadelphia, PA. Meets Gordon Matta
Clark and contributes to an artist
cookbook. Goes to Pilchuck Glass School,
Stanwood, WA, founded by Dale Chihuly,
as a visiting artist. He continues to
work there annually through 2001. Works
over the years with Pilchuck artists
Richard Royal, Seaver Leslie, Jamie
Carpenter, Joey Kirkpatrick, Flora Mace,
Robbie Miller, Billy Morris, Buster
Simpson, Toots Zynsky, Howard Ben Tre
and Therman Statom. Separates from his
wife Mary and leaves Glenside, PA to
live in Philadelphia at 1359 71st Ave.
Receives an NEA grant.
Seattle Studio Assistants
1975 Meets Stephanie Smedley, an artist,
who later becomes his wife. "Restoration
Pieces" at Alessandro Gallery, NYC.
1976 Moves to La Jolla, CA to take a one
year job teaching at the University of
California, San Diego as a visiting
professor. Hired by David and Eleanor
Antin at the suggestion of Ree Morton.
1977 Moves back to Philadelphia, PA and
returns to Tyler School of Art. Exhibits
"Saints, Lamentations, Limitations" at
1978 Moves permanently to La Jolla to
teach at UCSD with Newton and Helen
Harrison, David and Eleanor Antin, Manny
Farber, Patricia Patterson, and Alan
Kaprow. The University supplies him with
his first real studio in an old water
tank on campus. Creates "Fear" series
while visiting Dale Chihuly that summer
in Providence, RI. Begins the first of
several trips to Italy to make
pilgrimages, to visit his family, and to
look at art and architecture.
UCSD Water Tower Studio Assistants
1979 Creates the "Potato Famine" series,
his first work at UCSD. Exhibits them at
the Boehm Gallery, Palomar College, San
Marcos, CA and at Gallery One, San Jose
State University, San Jose, CA. Meets
art dealer Barry Rosen.
1980 Exhibits "Fear" and "Potato Famine"
pieces at the Frank Kolbert Gallery,
NYC. Receives NEA grant.
1981 Two week residency at Crown Point
Press, San Francisco, CA.
1982 Exhibits at Charles Cowles Gallery,
NYC. Creates woodcuts with Chip Elwell.
After 9 years of separation, he and Mary
Louise Ashley divorce.
1983 Marries Stephanie Smedley. Included
in the Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum
of American Art, NYC. Exhibits
"Archimedes Troubles: Sculptures and
Drawings" at the La Jolla Museum of
Contemporary Art, "Italo Scanga Heads"
at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art
and "Italo Scanga: Sculptures" as titled
at the Delahunty Gallery, NYC. "Animal
in Danger" and "Montecassino" series
made. Working with studio assistants Ryk
Williams and Dan Britton.
1984 Constructs "Figure Holding Fire"
with his son Joe at Santa Barbara Museo,
Mammola, Italy, his first public
commission. Joe and he continue doing
the public commissions together through
the years. Included in "Primitivism in
20th Century Art" at the Museum of
Modern Art, NYC. Has his first
one-person show in Florida at the Bruce
1985 Begins the "Metaphysical" series
with Ryk Williams in the water tank,
UCSD. "Italo Scanga New Works" at Arte
Contemporaneo, Mexico City, Mexico.
Travels to Leggia, Switzerland and
creates work for dealer Reto a Marca
with assistant Chuck Collings. Toru
Nakatani begins working with him at UCSD,
and continues this working relationship
(at his Turquoise Street studio) for the
remainder of his life.
1986 His first retrospective, "Italo
Scanga: Recent Sculpture and Drawings"
at the Oakland Museum, Oakland, CA.
Shows at John Berggruen Gallery, San
Francisco, CA, the Fabric Workshop,
Philadelphia, PA and Bette Stoler, NYC.
1987 Exhibits "Troubled World" series at
Amalfi Arte, Amalfi, Italy.
1988 Purchases 961 Turquoise Street
studio, San Diego, CA. Exhibits at Peggy
Guggenheim Collection, Venice, Italy;
Anders Tornberg Gallery, Lund, Sweden;
Dorothy Goldeen Gallery, Santa Monica,
CA; Larry Becker Gallery, Philadelphia,
PA and Germans Van Eck Gallery, NYC.
Commission for the City of San Jose, CA
"Figure Holding the Sun."
Turquoise Street Studio Assistants
1989 Amalfi Arte publishes "Italo Scanga"
with an essay by Michele Buonomo.
Separates from Stephanie Smedley and
moves into Turquoise Street studio.
Receives Distinguished Alumni Award from
Michigan State University.
1990 Artist in Residence at Skowhegan
School of Painting and Sculpture,
Skowhegan, ME. Builds sculptures with
son, Bill. Exhibits at Betsy Rosenfield
Gallery in Chicago, IL. Divorces
Stephanie Smedley. Starts spending a
majority of his time working on
1991 Meets welder David Grindle and
initiates a series of metal sculptures
with glass trees and cones and several
large welded "Trees" at Turquoise
Studio. Travels to Vietri Sul Mare,
Italy with son Bill to work at a
1992 Meets Su-Mei Yu, a chef and
restaurateur, his companion through the
end of his life. Exhibits in solo shows
at the Athenaeum Music and Arts Library,
La Jolla, CA and the Susanne Hillberry
Gallery, Birmingham, MI. Meets David and
Leisa Austin, and becomes a featured
artist at Imago Galleries, Palm Desert,
1993 Moves to Su-Mei Yu's house in La
Jolla, CA but continues using Turquoise
Street as a studio. Has one person shows
at the Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma, WA and
the Fay Gold Gallery, Atlanta, GE.
1994 Meets Nando Randi, visiting from
Ravenna for the America's Cup. Over the
next years establishes friendships with
many Italians visiting San Diego and
living in Italy including Chiara
Fuschini, Felice Nittolo, Diego
Esposito, Ubaldo Grazia and Giuseppe
1995 Exhibition at Galleria Il Patio,
Ravenna, Italy. Travels to Deruta, Italy
with son Bill and works at Deruta
ceramic factory; also in 1996, 1997 and
1999. Travels to Thailand with Su-Mei
Yu. Receives Chancellor's Award,
University of California, San Diego.
1996 Starts making sculptures with large
carved wood religious figures he has
carved in Thailand. Exhibition at Barry
Rosen & Jaap van Lier Modern &
Contemporary Art, NYC.
1997 Artist-in-residence for two weeks
at University of Virginia,
Charlottesville, VA. Makes frescoes with
Megan Marlatt. Exhibitions at Bayly Art
Museum, Charlottesville, VA, Bryan Ohno
Gallery, Seattle, WA, and Comune di
Ravenna, Ravenna, Italy.
1998 Begins a series of small bronzes.
Exhibits at Grossmont College Hyde
Gallery, San Diego, CA and Cuesta
College Art Gallery, San Luis Obispo, CA
1999 Purchases a second studio at 4130
Napier Street, San Diego, CA. Shows at
Flanders Contemporary Art, Minneapolis,
MN and The Lillian Berkley Collection,
2000 Begins work on an exciting new
series of work, after several years of
primarily painting, called the
"Candlestick" series with Mike Patterson
and Neal Bociek. Exhibition at Larry
Becker Gallery, Philadelphia, PA
2001 Major commission, "Continents" at
the San Diego International Airport.
Ready to travel to Italy for several
months for scheduled exhibitions in Lago,
Calabria and Ravenna, Italy. Also
working on creating a museum of his work
in his hometown of Lago, Calabria. Dies
of heart failure on July 27 at Turquoise
Street studio at age 69.