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.
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.
A free public opening takes place Thursday, July 17, from 7 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Galleries open at 7:30 pm, providing the public their first opportunity to view Salvatore Scarpitta: Traveler. A competitive sprint car will be parked on the Plaza, where Scarpitta driver Greg O’Neill talks about racing at 8 pm. Hirshhorn assistant curator Melissa Ho leads an exhibition tour at 9 pm. The documentary “Art & Racing: The Work and Life of Salvatore Scarpitta” screens continuously throughout the evening. Barbecue and beer will be available for purchase on the Plaza. The other exhibitions on the museum’s lower level, Black Box: Oliver Laric and Directions: Jeremy Deller, will also be open.