Scanga, Italo
Italo Scanga

Birth Date: 


Death Date: 


Italo Scanga, was a sculptor and painter who fashioned much of his work from found objects in a style that blended Cubist and folk influences. His materials included natural objects like branches and seashells, as well as kitsch figurines, castoff musical instruments and decorative trinkets salvaged from flea markets and thrift shops. He combined these ingredients into free-standing assemblages, which he then painted. Although visually ebullient, the results sometimes referred to gruesome episodes from Greek mythology or the lives and deaths of martyred saints.
He worked in many media, including printmaking, ceramics and glass, and considered his artistic influences to be sweepingly pan-cultural, from African sculpture to Giorgio de Chirico. He often collaborated with the sculptor Dale Chihuly, who was a close friend.

Mr. Scanga was born in the Calabria region of Italy, and at 14 immigrated to the United States with his family after World War II. Living in Detroit, he worked on the General Motors assembly line and served in the United States Army before attending Michigan State University, where he received a bachelor's degree in 1960 and a master's degree in sculpture a year later.
He had one-person shows at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Art, Boston, and the Museo Rufino Tamayo in Mexico City.
His work is in the collection of many museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Art Institute of Chicago.
Mr. Scanga taught art at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, the Rhode Island School of Design and the Tyler School of Art at Temple University in Philadelphia before becoming a visiting professor at the University of California in San Diego in 1976. He joined the faculty there in 1978.

He also visited and/or taught regularly at Pilchuck Glass School from 1973 to 2001.

1970 Exhibits "Saints, Glass, Tools, and Romances" at Atelier Chapman Kelly, Dallas, TX, one of his first one-person installations. Included in the sculpture annual at the Whitney Museum of American Art, NYC. Receives Howard Foundation grant from Brown University.
1971 Collaborates with Dale Chihuly and Jamie Carpenter pouring molten glass into bamboo at RISD. Exhibits the work at Museum of Art, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY. Shows an installation at Henri Gallery, Washington, DC.
1972 Solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art, NYC. Installations at the Clocktower, NYC and Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA. Teaches in Rome, Italy for Tyler School of Art.
1973 "Saints Glass" at 112 Greene Street Gallery, NYC. Installation at the Institute of Contemporary Art at University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA.
1978 Moves permanently to La Jolla to teach at UCSD where the University supplies him with his first real studio in an old water tank on campus. Creates "Fear" series while visiting Dale Chihuly that summer in Providence, RI. Begins the first of several trips to Italy to make pilgrimages, to visit his family, and to look at art and architecture.
1979 Creates the "Potato Famine" series, his first work at UCSD. Exhibits them at the Boehm Gallery, Palomar College, San Marcos, CA and at Gallery One, San Jose State University, San Jose, CA.
1980 Exhibits "Fear" and "Potato Famine" pieces at the Frank Kolbert Gallery, NYC. Receives NEA grant.
1982 Exhibits at Charles Cowles Gallery, NYC.
1983 Included in the Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, NYC. Exhibits "Archimedes Troubles: Sculptures and Drawings" at the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art, "Italo Scanga Heads" at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and "Italo Scanga: Sculptures" as titled at the Delahunty Gallery, NYC. "Animal in Danger" and "Montecassino" series made.
1984 Constructs "Figure Holding Fire" with his son Joe at Santa Barbara Museo, Mammola, Italy, his first public commission. Joe and he continue doing the public commissions together through the years. Included in "Primitivism in 20th Century Art" at the Museum of Modern Art, NYC. Has his first one-person show in Florida at the Bruce Helander Gallery.
1985 Begins the "Metaphysical" series with Ryk Williams in the water tank, UCSD. "Italo Scanga New Works" at Arte Contemporaneo, Mexico City, Mexico.
1986 His first retrospective, "Italo Scanga: Recent Sculpture and Drawings" at the Oakland Museum, Oakland, CA. Shows at John Berggruen Gallery, San Francisco, CA, the Fabric Workshop, Philadelphia, PA and Bette Stoler, NYC.
1987 Exhibits "Troubled World" series at Amalfi Arte, Amalfi, Italy.
1988 Exhibits at Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, Italy; Anders Tornberg Gallery, Lund, Sweden; Dorothy Goldeen Gallery, Santa Monica, CA; Larry Becker Gallery, Philadelphia, PA and Germans Van Eck Gallery, NYC. Commission for the City of San Jose, CA.
1989 Amalfi Arte publishes "Italo Scanga" with an essay by Michele Buonomo. Receives Distinguished Alumni Award from Michigan State University.
1990 Artist in Residence at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Skowhegan, ME. Builds sculptures with son, Bill. Exhibits at Betsy Rosenfield Gallery in Chicago, IL.
1992 Exhibits in solo shows at the Athenaeum Music and Arts Library, La Jolla, CA and the Susanne Hillberry Gallery, Birmingham, MI. Becomes a featured artist at Imago Galleries, Palm Desert, CA.
1993 Has one person shows at the Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma, WA and the Fay Gold Gallery, Atlanta, GE.
1995 Exhibition at Galleria Il Patio, Ravenna, Italy. Travels to Deruta, Italy with son Bill and works at Deruta ceramic factory; also in 1996, 1997 and 1999.
1996 Exhibition at Barry Rosen & Jaap van Lier Modern & Contemporary Art, NYC.
1997 Exhibitions at Bayly Art Museum, Charlottesville, VA, Bryan Ohno Gallery, Seattle, WA, and Comune di Ravenna, Ravenna, Italy.
1998 Exhibits at Grossmont College Hyde Gallery, San Diego, CA and Cuesta College Art Gallery, San Luis Obispo, CA
1999 Shows at Flanders Contemporary Art, Minneapolis, MN and The Lillian Berkley Collection, Escondido, CA
2000 Exhibition at Larry Becker Gallery, Philadelphia, PA
2001 Major commission, "Continents" at the San Diego International Airport.


Museum of Northwest Art


The Museum of Northwest Art connects people with the art, diverse cultures and environments of the Northwest. 



MoNA collects and exhibits contemporary art from across the Northwest, including Alaska, British Columbia, California, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington.