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San Jose Art Museum Sculpture - Figure Holding the Sun

Figure Holding the Sun by Italo Scanga 1988 Fairmont Plaza at 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 tables 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 Art.

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 museum store.

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 steel sculpture

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 of saints.

1947 Emigrates to America with his mother to Pt. Marion, PA where his father works as a laborer for the railroad.

1950 Moves to Garden City, MI with his family and works at General Motors lifting transmissions on an assembly line.

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 division.

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 (Tony) born.

1958 Father, Guiseppe dies in Garden City, MI.

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) born.

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 lifelong friendship.

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, Washington, DC.

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 Alessandro Gallery.

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 Helander Gallery.

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 paintings.

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 ceramics factory.

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, CA.

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 Padula.

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, Escondido, CA

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.


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