Salvatore Scarpitta, Sal Cragar, 1969 and Trevis Race Car (Sal Gambler Special), 1985. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC. Trevis Race Car (Sal Gambler Special) is a gift of Stella Alba Cartaino and Gregory O’Neill, 2014. Photo: Lee Stalsworth
July 17, 2014 to January 11, 2015 (Lower Level)
A fascinating and singular figure in postwar art, Salvatore Scarpitta (1919–2007) created a powerful body of work that ranges from nonobjective abstraction to radical realism. Scarpitta’s career linked the worlds of art and car racing, moving from the avant-garde cultural circles of postwar Rome to the banked dirt oval speedways of rural Maryland and Pennsylvania. Focusing on his shaped and wrapped canvases, race cars, and sleds, Salvatore Scarpitta: Traveler illuminates themes that occupied the artist throughout his life: risk, movement, death, and rebirth. Deeply admired in Europe where he began his career, Scarpitta has yet to be fully recognized in his native United States. This will be the first solo presentation of his work at an American museum in over a decade, and the first ever on the East Coast.
Scarpitta in Context: Germano Celant and Paul Schimmel in Conversation takes place Wednesday, October 8, at 7 pm in the Ring Auditorium. Co-curator of the 2012 retrospective Salvatore Scarpitta at the Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea in Turin and a personal friend of the artist for decades, Celant is artistic director of the Prada Foundation and senior curator of contemporary art at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Schimmel is former chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles and organizer of Destroy the Picture: Painting the Void, 1949–1962, which included early works by Scarpitta. He also knew the artist well, having first met Scarpitta in the 1970s.
Salvatore Scarpitta: Traveler is made possible in part by the generous support of the Estate of Frank B. Gettings in memory of Nancy Kirkpatrick and Frank Gettings, C.P. Beler, the Holenia Trust, and the Hirshhorn Exhibition Fund. The exhibition brochure is generously underwritten by Kristin and Howard Johnson and the Italian Cultural Institute on the occasion of Italy’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union from July 1 through December 31, 2014.