While fighting for the US navy during the Second World War, Italian-American artist Salvatore Scarpitta was a 'monuments man' – part of a team that traced and catalogued artworks stolen by the Nazis. This name now takes on new meaning, as an eight-year slice of the artist's monumental oeuvre goes on display at Luxembourg & Dayan in New York.
From wartime detective to race car driver, Scarpitta was a man of many talents. This is reflected in his varied artistic practice, which ranges from visceral, 3D canvases to sculpted reconstructions of automobiles. Despite this broad opus, Scarpitta – who was represented by Leo Castelli – remains lesser-known than other post-war artists linked to the legendary dealer (think Rauschenberg, Twombly, Ruscha, Warhol). Luxembourg & Dayan's timely exhibition makes moves to alter this perception, giving a niche – yet important – portion of Scarpitta's work the space and clarity it deserves.
The display spans between two pivotal moments that defined Scarpitta's career: his 'bandage' paintings from the late 1950s, and his shift away from the canvas towards artistically re-building race cars in 1964. These cosmic shifts, like spokes in a wheel, gave the artist's long career momentum, but left him tricky to categorise or define, exacerbated by his mix of Italian and American influences.
'In 1958, Scarpitta returned to New York from Rome, where he had been living for almost two decades,' Amalia Dayan explains. 'He acted as a sort of one-man bridge between these two worlds, and this body of work captures his responses to these multiple political, cultural and artistic influences swirling around him from both directions.' From his 1956 Sul limite e oltre (Composizione), remnants of Scarpitta's Italian-inspired, expressionistic touch can still be felt. Later, we trace his turn towards a more graphic language, incorporating components of Hollywood race car culture, as in the seatbelts of Tishamingo (For Franz Kline), from 1964. The artist himself once said, 'I felt that I had something to say in that period of, shall we say, the American background as the stimulus of those works, and the racing cars were my way of showing that I, too, knew something of America.'
With such dualities crashing together in the work, picking this exploratory period to focus on was a genius move from dynamic power-duo Dayan and Daniella Luxembourg. But it wasn't without its difficulties. 'Scarpitta's works are scattered all over – many are in collections in Europe – so the process of hunting them down was quite intense,' Dayan reveals. 'But having the tight, eight-year parameter also opens up a different kind of creativity, since it allows us to take a scholarly approach and to really dive into historical detail and context.' The deft academic qualities of the show do not outweigh its aesthetic ones, helping to make Scarpitta's posthumous legacy ever more important.
’Salvatore Scarpitta, 1956–1964’ is on view until 23 December. For more information, visit the Luxembourg & Dayan website
Luxembourg & Dayan
64 E 77th Street
New York, NY 10075
Receive our daily digest of inspiration, escapism and design stories from around the world direct to your inbox
Elly Parsons is the Digital Editor of Wallpaper*, where she oversees Wallpaper.com and its social platforms. She has been with the brand since 2015 in various roles, spending time as digital writer – specialising in art, technology and contemporary culture – and as deputy digital editor. She was shortlisted for a PPA Award in 2017, has written extensively for many publications, and has contributed to three books. She is a guest lecturer in digital journalism at Goldsmiths University, London, where she also holds a masters degree in creative writing. Now, her main areas of expertise include content strategy, audience engagement, and social media.
Tradition meets modernity at Taquería Los Alexis in Mexico City
Taquería Los Alexis serves up two kinds of tacos, and interiors with an industrial edge
By Sofia de la Cruz Published
The modernist First Christian Church celebrates its iconic tower’s restoration in Columbus
The modernist First Christian Church in Columbus, Indiana, designed by Eliel and Eero Saarinen, has completed extensive restoration works on its iconic tower
By Audrey Henderson Published
New Fujifilm X100VI is a cutting-edge digital camera in a classical case
The Fujifilm X100VI, the series’ sixth generation, is a digital camera that’ll wrestle photography back from the smartphone
By Jonathan Bell Published
New York artist Christopher Astley showcases an alternative natural world
At Martos Gallery in New York, Christopher Astley’s paintings evoke an alternative natural world and the chaos of warfare (until 16 March 2024)
By Tianna Williams Published
The Whitney plots Harold Cohen’s artistic AI adventures
‘Harold Cohen: AARON’, at the Whitney Museum of American Art celebrates the artist’s software – the earliest AI program for artmaking – as an artwork in its own right
By Hannah Silver Published
Ludovic Nkoth’s vibrant paintings reflect on migration
Cameroon-born, New York-based Ludovic Nkoth uses acrylic paint to strike a balance between abstraction and figuration
By Ugonna-Ora Owoh Published
Sneak peek: inside Jack Shainman’s vast New York gallery
Jack Shainman’s new gallery space opens with ‘Broken Spectre’, a new film by Irish artist Richard Mosse
By Mary Cleary Published
Artists explore the meaning of home through the lens of queer and trans domesticity in New York
Group exhibition ‘Dreaming of Home’, at Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art, uses a seminal Catherine Opie photograph as a springboard to explore the meaning of home today
By Hannah Silver Published
Sheila Metzner’s jewel-toned fashion photography goes on show in Los Angeles
‘Sheila Metzner: From Life’ is at the Getty Center until 18 February 2024, including her richly toned fashion photography and still lifes; the artist tells us more
By Hunter Drohojowska-Philp Published
Takashi Murakami on his monsterizing San Francisco show
Takashi Murakami tells us of pandemic-inspired creatures, eye-popping flowers, and NFTs as he explains the making of his exhibition at Asian Art Museum in San Francisco
By Pei-Ru Keh Published
How to conquer the Atomic City: the story behind U2 at the new Las Vegas Sphere
U2:UV Achtung Baby Live At Sphere redefines the 21st-century rock concert. We spoke to the band and its team about the genesis of this expansive art and music experience that marks the opening of the high-tech venue
By Jonathan Bell Published