Excerpts from "The Shaman's Workplace"
Michele Bonuomo

Any discussion regarding the opus of Italo Scanga must begin by considering the spaces in which he works. Scanga has no favorite place where he chooses to construct his pieces, he is an artist with an odd, ancient, animal ability to adapt every space to his needs as primary fields of action. In his case, one should not expect to find a traditional atelier with easels, drawing desks, models, and tools that announce his aims. Not only his studio, but his home, his car, his storage containers kept at the mesa, his haversack, and the pockets of his clothes are all places of accumulation.

There one finds not only the objects of his memory, but the scraps and fragments of the external world as well; there they collect, stratify and, as if by some spell, begin to transform.

The fragments that Italo gathers and amasses in his chosen spaces are not the sort of "objets trouves" beloved by the Surrealists, in other words, they are not objects which were consciously re-created and redefined through the action of the artist. In Scanga's case they are basic elements that represent the first stage in a creative process that is engendered by a fascination with marginalized commonplace objects which eventually find connections, and which finally identify with the artist's emotional and intellectual condition.

Scanga's ateliers are the dens of an ancient alchemist where everything comes to rest and, awaiting the artist's final magic, acquires newfound energy. Concurrently, however, they are the metaphor of his artistic process.

From this point of view, Italo is the American artist who more than any other openly declares his origins, without suffering from excessive nostalgia or becoming entrapped in romantic melancholy. Scanga does not suffer form the syndrome of the emigrant who looks for one more way out to the promised land. Aware of the presence of thousands of years of experience at his shoulders, he is open to the new with a free and secular spirit. In all of his work, as in the daily and natural accumulation of materials on his studio, there is a strong idea of novelty that is much more available and familiar than can be imagined. The new, then, is to be found in the fusion of the following matrices: the Italian, hi blood legacy, and the American, acquired in the last thirty years of his artistic experience.

In Scanga's studio, as in his every work - even the smallest - things crowd until the individual elements are no longer recognizable: and so Christ becomes confused with Pythagoras, Giovan Battista Vico and Campanella with a neoCartesian conceptualism. And hunger, roots of origin, the religion of the fathers, the still fresh memory of the emigrant child laborers sold by don Celestino, the pharmacist in a secluded town in southern Italy, fuse with the hopes sand pride of a newly conquered land, and with the eternal restlessness of art, which covers "everything with its waves."

Aside from the styles and the linguistic expedients that have form time to time characterized his research, Scanga has kept active an unequivocally ethical attitude in regards to art and, therefore, the need to arrive at the clarification of objects: the artist always makes the most of his doubt, but is nevertheless straightforward in his openness to the world. In assessing Scanga's work, we must keep in mind this continuous tangle that tends toward a zeroing. In other words, every work must be regarded as a continual process of alchemy, and the verification of its elements, its materials, as well its point of convergence or divergence, and its similarities with the last thirty years of research, must be deferred. A tout court definition of Scanga's work as "arte povera," or pop, or Picassian, or even metaphysical, is reductive and facile. Due to his very particular and personal rhythms of development, and because of his reaching beyond fashions and trends, Scanga's work, like that of few others, evidences and American spirit finally become clear, rich and in opposition to the false and empty image accredited by consumeristic culture.

Italo Scanga gives form to his mocking and witty universe with the wisdom of an artisan, always tempted by irony but never merely satisfied, with the amusing. Like Cornell, he constructs his visions and hallucinations with patience, with the competence of the ancient worker who, detail after detail, constructed the cathedrals. The artist knows the quality of the materials, and is aware of the complexity of History, but he does not let himself be caught up in the easy game of quotation: he loves Lipchitz, Archipenko, Picasso and Leger, but is never the glazed and calligraphic humorist that is Lichtenstein. In every work in his series (Saints, Potato Famine, Fear, Montecassino, Animals, Destination, Small Trophies, etc.) there is always a dimension of pathos that causes irritation, anxiety, and thought. His works are meant to provoke the mind and the eyes of those who view them but, above all, they are meant to stimulate and provoke his own mind and eyes. To satisfy this opus of continuous provocation, Scanga is required to produce a great number of pieces: his work can never find definition in any one particular work. Just as his studio fills with objects, his artistic process can never be said to have exhausted itself in one single object, in one painting, one sculpture, a unique environment: only excess can define the particular. The excess of production, the formal overloading in every series of works, determines a dynamism that goes beyond even Boccioini's fragmentation of form in movement. Dynamism, the central element in Scanga's works, is further enriched by another component: waster, the total consumption of the form in its extension into the overall work of art. While, for example, Futurism moved within a disciplinary context, in other words, in the structure of the form and of its eventual transformations and deformations, Scanga's conception of movement is as extrema ratio and as a zeroing of that very discipline.

Dynamism then, is not in the formal structure of the realized work, but in the attitude of continuous interpretative verification. Scanga rejects genre delineations (what is a painting or a sculpture in his case?) in the interest, and in the defense of, an exclusively ethical category, within which it is possible to continue to produce art.