A portrait of Paolo Scheggi
PAOLO SCHEGGI. LIFE, RESEARCH, VISION
Born on 19 August 1940 in Settignano, in the province of Florence, Paolo Scheggi completed his studies at the Istituto Statale d'Arte in Florence, and at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Florence; he then moved to London to attend a Visual Design course and attended Rome. From his father, Director of the Compagnia della Misericordia, he received his first knowledge of the sacred texts and a spiritual vision that was to characterise, as a plot now evident now silent, all his research.
His first works date back to the end of the 1950s and are characterised by the use of different materials, such as sheet metal, wooden boards, paper of different thicknesses glued and assembled to form material and polychrome collages, abstract papers characterised by signs of different intensity, in some cases by stains and shapes referring to figures or figurative hypotheses.
At the beginning of the 1960s, Scheggi assiduously frequented Fiamma Vigo's Galleria Numero, which invited him to exhibit in several group shows.
In this phase, his works, still made with the technique of assembling metal sheets, defined by the artist as saldage, turned to monochrome and presented circular, oval and rectangular shapes, highlighting the relationships between surface and depth.
In 1961 he founded with literary friends, in Florence, the cultural and artistic-literary criticism paper "Il Malinteso” (The Misunderstanding), which included a reflection signed by Jean-Paul Sartre.
Attracted by the ferment of the city of Milan, he moved there in the autumn of 1961. Here, in an initial phase, housed in Germana Marucelli's tailor's house in Corso Venezia 18, he experimented with the relationship between art and fashion, painting the fabrics for the clothes of some collections and making coordinated accessories and jewellery. In the first part of 1962 Scheggi deepened his contacts with the Milanese artistic environment, frequenting the artists of Azimut, Manzoni, Castellani, Bonalumi and the programmed artists. His friendship with Lucio Fontana and Bruno Munari also dates back to this year.
In 1962 he held his second personal exhibition at the Galleria Il Cancello in Bologna, held from 8 December and entitled Paolo Scheggi Merlini. "Per una situazione". (For a Situation) On this occasion, Lucio Fontana wrote an intense letter to the young artist, which was published in the catalogue, in which he positively evaluated his research, which had led to monochrome works characterised by the superimposition of three differently perforated canvases.
The following year, 1963, marked the attention paid to Scheggi's research by Lara Vinca Masini, who presented him in the group exhibition significantly entitled "Monocroma" (Monochrome), curated with Mario Bergomi and intended to deepen the Italian and international research that was moving towards this pictorial choice, but also by Giulio Carlo Argan and Palma Bucarelli. Bucarelli, at the head of the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna in Rome, welcomed two of the artist's works into the museum's collections in 1963.
1964 was another important year for Scheggi's relations with Getulio Alviani, Umbro Apollonio, Germano Celant, Alessandro Mendini and Carlo Belloli.
Paolo Scheggi's studio in Via Jan, Milan, with some"Composers and spatial modes and maquettes of housing units, 1968.
"Monotypes by Paolo Scheggi-Merlini", exhibition catalogue, Florence, Galleria La Vigna Nuova, 2-14 September 1961
Scheggi's important participation in the exhibition "44 protagonisti della visualità strutturata" (44 Protagonists Of Structured Visuality), commissioned by Carlo Belloli for the Galleria Lorenzelli in Milan, dates back to April. Belloli then signed the critical text for Paolo Scheggi's third solo exhibition, set up in Genoa, at the Galleria del Deposito, from 26 May, and entitled "7 intersuperfici curve-bianche + 1 intersuperficie curva-dal rosso + 2 progetti di compositori spaziali" (7 curved-white intersurfaces + 1 curved-red intersurface + 2 projects of spatial composers). On this occasion the term "Intersurface" also makes its first appearance, probably suggested to Scheggi by Belloli himself, while the title of the exhibition underlines that the artist is undertaking research aimed at integrating art and architecture.
Among the first results of these studies are: the "Compositore Cromo-Spaziale" (Chromatic-Spatial Composer), created for Bruno Munari and Marcello Piccardo's Experimental Cinema Hall at the XIII Triennale in Milan, dedicated to the theme of "Tempo Libero" (Free Time); the architectural and environmental design of the new headquarters of Germana Marucelli's fashion house, created in collaboration with Alviani and Venosta.
"44 protagonists of structured visuality", edited by Carlo Belloli, exhibition catalogue, Milan, Galleria Lorenzelli, April-May 1964, Milan, Alfieri e Lacroix 1964 (catalogue cover)
At the end of 1964, Scheggi opened his fourth one-man exhibition and his first one abroad at the Smith Gallery in Brussels, with the same title as the one-man exhibition held at the Galleria del Deposito in Genoa: "Intersurfaces courbes - compositeurs spatiaux - projets d'intégration plastiques".
In October he married Franca Scheggi Dall'Acqua.
At the beginning of the following year, his research in architectural and environmental direction led Scheggi to draw up and sign the manifesto "Ipotesi di lavoro per la progettazione totale" (Working hypotheses for total design) presented in January 1965 to the Lombardy Regional College of Architects and written with Germano Celant, Angelo Fronzoni, Alessandro Mendini, Gian Mario Oliveri and Giancarlo Sangregorio.
"Intersurfaces courbes - compositeurs spatiaux - un projets d'intégration plastiques", exhibition catalogue, Bruxelles, Galerie Smith, 4-21 November 1964
In the meantime, Scheggi's contacts with the Nul Group, initiated two years earlier through Piero Manzoni and Henk Peeters, led to his participation in the exhibition "Nul = Zero", organised by the Galleria Orez and held at the Galerij De Bezige Bij in Amsterdam.
1965 also marked Scheggi's entry into the international movement of "nove tendencije" (New Tendencies): from 13 August to 19 September, he exhibited at nova tendencija 3, held at the Gallery of Contemporary Art in Zagreb, forging important contacts with Ivan Picelj and the cultural world of former Yugoslavia.
In May 1965, he inaugurated the solo exhibition at the Galleria d'Arte Il Cavallino in Venice Paolo Scheggi. "Intersuperfici curve" (Curved Intersurfaces), introduced by a text by Umbro Apollonio: this was the beginning of a happy and lasting collaboration between the artist and the Cardazzo family.
"Paolo Scheggi", exhibition catalogue, Venice, Galleria d'Arte Il Cavallino, 15-24 May 1965, Venice, Edizioni del Cavallino 1965
Paolo Scheggi, graphic works for "La lune en rodage", Edizioni Panderma by Carl Laszlo, published in "Panderma", Almanac, no. 7-8, 1966
1966 and 1967 can be considered two crucial years both for Scheggi's recognition at an international level and for the evolution of his research, first in the environmental and architectural direction, then in the performing and theatrical fields.
His participation in exhibitions that are still destined to provoke studies and debates today, dedicated to monochrome and object painting, and his participation in the XXXIII International Art Biennial in Venice, in the section "Gruppi di opere. Pittura, scultura, grafica" (Groups of works: paintings, sculptures and graphics) curated by Nello Ponente, were fundamental.
The whole of the second half of 1966 and the beginning of 1967 were characterised by international travel and exhibitions: see "Italy, New Tendencies" organised by Galleria Bonino in New York; "Three European Artist"s at the Ewan Phillips Gallery in London; "Graphics '67 Italy", held at the University of Kentucky Art Gallery; "Italian Abstract Art" at the Roland Gibson Art Foundation in Potsdam, New York; "Painting and Sculpture Today - '67", the fifth annual exhibition of works of contemporary art selected by the "Contemporary Art Society of the Art Association of Indianapolis" and exhibited at the Herron Museum of Art in Indianapolis; "20th Century Italian Art" at the Baltimore Museum of Art; "Nueva Tendencja Italiana", an exhibition organised by Umbro Apollonio at the Museo de Arte Moderna in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Between 1966 and 1967 Scheggi's research reached and established itself in the Scandinavian countries; it is worth mentioning his participation in the First Scandinavian Biennale, held in Charlottenborg, Copenhagen; "Trends confronted - objectual figuration - visual art", at the Institute of Culture in Stockholm.
"Con temp l'azione", Turin, Galleria Christian Stein, Galleria Il Punto, Galleria Sperone, from 4 December 1967 and Lugano, Arts International club edizioni Flaviana, from 17 February 1968
During the summer of 1966, Scheggi dialogues with Renato Cardazzo in view of the solo exhibition to be held in January 1967, planning that extension of the work into the environment destined to result in the "Intercamera plastica". Formed by curvilinear and rectilinear die-cut wooden walls in a bright yellow, it was presented with a text by Umbro Apollonio at the Galleria del Naviglio in Milan in January 1967; later, painted white, it was shown at the exhibition "Lo spazio dell'immagine" at Palazzo Trinci in Foligno in the summer of 1967.
Starting in the autumn, with the new academic year, Scheggi's "Intercamera plastica" was the basis for a series of lectures entitled "Structural meta-design", held by Dino Formaggio in the "Metodologie della visione" course at the Faculty of Architecture in Milan. The same "Intercamera plastica" then became the basis for a "Proposta di cellula abitativa" designed by the students Carlo Ferrario, Franco Ferrari and Maddalena Montagnani and presented as a degree project at the end of the academic year, extending the compositional module from the housing level to the architectural and urban planning level.
At the end of 1967 a new direction in Scheggi's research was manifested, one that had certainly matured in the preceding months and was destined to go beyond the object level of the work and the environment, and to open up to urban space. Fundamental in this sense was the event "Con temp l'azione", organised by Daniela Palazzoli in the Il Punto, Sperone and Stein galleries in Turin and at the Arts International club edizioni Flaviana in Lugano, between the end of 1967 and February 1968.
"Public Eye (Kinetik, Konstruktivismus, Environments), exhibition catalogue, Hamburg, Kunsthaus, 1 November-1 December 1968 (catalogue cover)
"Paolo Scheggi. Intersuperfici curve", Naples, Modern Art Agency, from 8 February 1969 (catalogue cover)
It was in 1968 that Scheggi finally reached the theatrical, public and performance sphere: from the unrealized project of the "Cannocchiale ottico percorribile", presented for the exhibition "Interventi nel paesaggio" within the XIV Triennale in Milan, dedicated to the theme of "Il Grande Numero" (The Great Number); to the "Interfiore" that Scheggi set up at the Galleria La Tartaruga in Rome, within the event "Teatro delle mostre" (Theatre of Exhibitions), aimed at deepening the concept of performance and happening and at actively involving the user.
During the course of the year Scheggi also met Giuliano Scabia, who would later commission him to create the "Interventi plastico-visuali" for the "Visita alla prova dell'Isola purpurea di Bulgakov+Scabia", a play held at the Piccolo Teatro in Milan at the end of 1968.
In the meantime, the deepening of the dialogue with Achille Bonito Oliva led, at the beginning of 1969, to the exhibition at the Modern Art Agency in Naples, entitled "Paolo Scheggi. Intersuperfici curve", held from 8 February; in the relevant publication, Scheggi presented his entire career, from the first "Intersuperfici to the Inter-ena-cubi".
On the occasion of the performance of "Materiale per sei personaggi" (Material for six characters), which took place at the Teatro Durini in Milan between the end of March and the beginning of April 1969, directed by Roberto Lerici, Scheggi used a wall of the "Intercamera plastica" to create the white "scenoplastica" which served as the backdrop for the show and on which videos and images were projected. The following month, at the Galleria del Naviglio in Milan, he staged "Oplà-stick, passione secondo Paolo Scheggi": the first performance written and directed by Scheggi, based on Ernst Toller's play "Hoppla, wir leben!": a tribute to Piscator and to the political theatre of the historical avant-garde. "Oplà-stick" was repeated on 6 May in Zagreb, on the occasion of the "tendencije 4" event; at the end of the year, Scheggi proposed "Oplà-action-reading-theatre" in the streets of Florence, starting from the Galleria Flori where one of his personal exhibitions was in progress: the action had first been carried out in Milan in Via Manzoni and was to take place also in Turin and Rome.
Paolo Scheggi, "Manifesto de L'Autospettacolo", staged in Caorle on the occasion of the event "Nuovi Materiali Nuove Tecniche", 20 July-24 August 1969, 100 x 70 cm. Private collection
Completely absorbed by the new direction of the theatrical and performative investigation, even on the occasion of the event "Nuovi Materiali Nuove Tecniche", held in various venues in the town of Caorle, Scheggi staged the "Autospettacolo", surrounding himself with important consultants and collaborators among whom Raffaele Maiello for the direction, Franco Quadri for the theatrical criticism, Tommaso Trini for the artistic criticism, Franca Sacchi for the music. Also during the summer of 1969, he wrote two new theatrical performances: the "Dies Irae, inquisizione secondo Paolo Scheggi", with music and choreography by Franca Sacchi; the "Marcia Funebre o della Geometria, processione secondo Paolo Scheggi", again with the musical support of Sacchi, for the event "Campo Urbano. Aesthetic interventions in the collective urban dimension", ordered by Luciano Caramel and documented by Ugo Mulas' shots.
The last phase of Scheggi's research, from the end of 1969 to 1971, the year of his premature death, is characterised by research in a conceptual key and intended to analyse the role of language, from the written and performing word to its symbolic, metaphysical and political-ideological value. In this direction, still to be explored in their complexity, are: "the 7 self-punishing recursive spaces for 7 neutral spaces", realised with Mario Brunati; the "Appunti per una idea della morte: notes for the directorial drafting of the Apocalypse", a theatrical staging that should have been proposed for the Venice Biennale; the environment exhibited at the "Amore mio" (My Love) exhibition at Palazzo Ricci in Montepulciano, in the province of Siena, entitled the "Tomba della geometria" (Tomb of Geometry), in black plastic laminate and bronze lapidary characters, then exhibited at "Vitalità del Negativo nell'arte italiana 1960/70" (Vitality of the Negative in Italian Art 1960/70), ordered by Achille Bonito Oliva and organised by the Incontri Internazionali d'Arte in Rome, at Palazzo delle Esposizioni, from 16 November to 31 December. Here the environment is exhibited together with the "Pyramid", made of wooden panels painted white and with a chromium-plated steel plate bearing the inscription "DELLA METAFISICA".
Paolo Scheggi with the plate "DELLA METAFISICA", 1970, photograph by Marcella Galassi, Rome
Their friendship with Vincenzo Agnetti led to the four-handed project "Il Trono. Levitazione secondo Agnetti & Scheggi", presented at the Galleria Mana Art Market in Rome in November 1970; the two artists started another four-handed project, which was interrupted due to Scheggi's untimely death, entitled IL TEMPIO. THE BIRTH OF EIDOS.
In the spring of that year Scheggi began teaching Psychology of Form at the Academy of Fine Arts in L'Aquila, directed by Piero Sadun.
The birth of his daughter Cosima Ondosa Serenissima, still in March, is commemorated by the artist in the ONDOSA room, made of black Print plastic laminate and presented at the Eurodomus 3 exhibition in Milan.
In spite of the drastic worsening of his health conditions, at the beginning of 1971 Scheggi continues his collaboration with the magazine "In"; he is called to realise a plastic intervention at the Hotel Michelangelo in Milan, in steel and capital lapidary characters; he succeeds in finishing the work "6profetiper6geometrie", composed of six geometric solids made of different materials, to which the names of six biblical prophets are joined. Exhibited in the solo exhibition that the Galleria del Naviglio in Milan dedicated to him on 19 May 1971, the "6profetiper6geometrie" (6prophetsfor6geometries) represent a sort of spiritual testament to the artist, who died in Rome on 26 June of the same year.
Ilaria Bignotti, Scientific Curator of the Paolo Scheggi Archive