28 – 30 March, 2014
“Paolo Scheggi e il suo tempo”
Artists: Getulio Alviani, Bernard Aubertin, Vincenzo Agnetti, Marina Apollonio, Alberto Biasi, Agostino Bonalumi, Enrico Castellani, Gianni Colombo, Dadamaino, Fausto Melotti, Paolo Scheggi, Grazia Varisco.
In the context of MiArt 2014, an event so deeply rooted in the city of Milan and yet so open to international creative languages, Galleria Cortesi Contemporary is dedicating its space to the Milanese art scene of the ’60s.
It has done this by focusing on Paolo Scheggi (Florence 1940 – Rome 1971) in a keen investigation linking him to other leading figures of the era who were his friends and travelling companions: Vincenzo Agnetti, Getulio Alviani, Agostino Bonalumi, Enrico Castellani, Gianni Colombo, Dadamaino, Grazia Varisco.
Exploring the visual sphere in different ways, their works create an incisive dialogue with those of an artist who was Florentine by birth, Milanese by adoption, but international by vocation.
Right on the heels of the fair in Milan, Cortesi Contemporary will continue paying tribute to Paolo Scheggi’s work in a show developed specifically for the purpose at the gallery’s venue in Lugano, juxtaposing it with the practice of artist Lucy Skaer (b. 1975, Glasgow).
In this exhibition, Scheggi’s decade of intense creative work will be explored not only through his best-known pieces – his Intersuperficie, which feature three overlaid monochrome canvases pierced in different ways by irregular, oval and elliptical holes, or by clear-cut circular forms that mirror each other – but also with a model for the Intercamera plastica that Scheggi made in Milan, developing this project in collaboration with Renato Cardazzo for a show at the Galleria del Naviglio in January 1967. As Germano Celant and Umbro Apollonio saw it, the Intercamera plastica was an attempt to extend the artwork into the space-time of the present: an artwork that had already come down off the wall, abandoning the frame and pedestal, and becoming an environment where viewers could share in a sensory and intellectual, physical and mental, unique and open-ended experience.
Cortesi Contemporary will then continue tracing the development of Scheggi’s ideas through his first foray into the realm of theater, with the fluorescent circles of Interfiore in 1968. This highly evocative and contemplative installation employed black light, which Lucio Fontana had been the first to experiment with: in Milan, as it so happened, where he created a black-lit spatial environment at the aforementioned Galleria del Naviglio. As one of Fontana’s spiritual heirs, Scheggi made this environment – whose title hints at luminous shapes blossoming in space – for the extraordinary event conceived by Plinio De Martiis at Galleria la Tartaruga in Rome: the Teatro delle Mostre.
These were pivotal steps for Scheggi, whose career would be cut short at the age of just thirty, and whose last works, already moving in the direction of a symbolic, political and conceptual language, would be aimed at expressing man’s metaphysical yearnings. This final stage of Scheggi’s work, in the Lugano exhibition, will serve as a touchstone for Lucy Skaer, who will create site-specific works and installations for a show curated by Eva Fabbris.
Here at miart, it is Scheggi’s adventure in Milan that will be the focus of the project.
This adventure began in the late summer of 1961, when Scheggi (originally from Settignano, near Florence), after a period spent studying in Rome and in London, felt a strong need to “sniff out the city”, choosing the Lombard capital. Or so he wrote to the great literary figure Fernanda Pivano, one of the first passionate supporters of his work.
Milan would give Scheggi many things. And he would do many things to and for Milan.
Having plunged into the city’s art and intellectual circles, at first as the guest of Germana Marucelli, a global ambassador of Italian fashion, Scheggi began spending time with figures from Azimuth, especially Bonalumi and Castellani, and in 1962, caught the eye of Lucio Fontana, who warmly praised his work, hailing it as art “of its time”.
In Milan, as he began his first explorations of monochrome, Scheggi’s path also intersected with Arte Programmata: Bruno Munari, Dadamaino, Gianni Colombo and Grazia Varisco of Gruppo T, and Getulio Alviani; and it was also in Milan that Scheggi branched out at an interdisciplinary level, collaborating with architects and designers, the world of fashion, and later of theater, in a movement towards the total work of art that even today is one of his most surprising facets. Hence his collaborations with Nizzoli Associati and with Alessandro Mendini in the sphere of meta-design, and with Bruno Munari for Compositore euro-cromo-spaziale, a setting conceived for the experimental film section of the 13th Milan Triennale in 1964. That same year, Scheggi designed and realized Germana Marucelli’s new couture atelier, transforming it into a modern, innovative environment, in collaboration with Getulio Alviani.
With the latter, he moved closer to the New Tendencies, shifting his gaze to Eastern Europe while continuing his dialogue with Bonalumi and Castellani: these three artists, according to Gillo Dorfles, were pioneers of “object painting”, sharing the desire to create “a painting that is an integrative element of habitable space, which may therefore act as the modulator of a dimensional situation or a purely plastic/chromatic element springing from the encounter of forms and colors, yet always following a careful, preordained structural scheme,” as Dorfles wrote in 1966.
As the years rushed by in Milan, Scheggi struck out on every possible path, though always with a clear-eyed, consistent approach: in 1967, he created the aforementioned Intercamera plastica, a reconstruction of which was pioneered at miart in 2008, with the support of Franca and Cosima Scheggi, and is now in the collection of Centro Pecci in Prato; then came his theatrical projects, where Scheggi showed how his art could even transform the space of the theater and get rid of the barriers between stage and audience.
After this came his collaboration with Vincenzo Agnetti, Scheggi’s ally in the final stage of his career, which centered on developing a symbolic, political language in which words, after the collapse of the decade’s great utopias, came to express a geometry reinvented for the humanity of the future.
Amid metaphysical thrones, immeasurable pyramids, and silent tombs of geometry, Scheggi took the final steps of a multifaceted, complex journey that even today, has questions to pose.
That is why Associazione Paolo Scheggi has been founded in Milan, by wish of Franca and Cosima Scheggi; aimed at preserving, protecting and promoting the artist’s work, it has chosen Luca Massimo Barbero to edit the forthcoming catalogue raisonné.
Illuminating some of the many paths to exploring the artist’s work, this ongoing investigation by Cortesi Contemporary therefore plays an important role, and its Milan stage at miart 2014 is meant as the first seed of an eagerly anticipated debate.