Paolo Scheggi

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The search for a new spatiality and the study of perception are the focus of the works that Paolo Scheggi (Florence, 1940 – Rome, 1971) produced in the 1960s and 1970s. Through a number of different disciplines, ranging from architecture to fashion, Scheggi started from Lucio Fontana’s premises to produce his first monochrome paintings and at the same time, like the Italian-Argentine artist, developed the idea of an “environmental” expansion of the artwork, no longer relegated to the two-dimensional surface but articulated and integrated in space. In 1966 an exhibition at the Galleria Arco d’Alibert in Rome brought together the works of Paolo Scheggi, Agostino Bonalumi and Enrico Castellani, to which the critic Gillo Dorfles applied the term “object- paintings”: though bound up with the dimension of the picture, the works by these artists are united by the transformation of the canvas, which is not a simple support for the application of the painting but a structural element, no longer a surface but an object that affirms its three-dimensionality.

In this respect the Intersuperfici (“Intersurfaces”) that Scheggi produced in the mid-1960s are exemplary. They included Intersuperficie curva (“Curved Intersurface”, 1967) in blue monochrome. Built up out of overlapping canvases, these works are characterized by a rigorous modularity and a series of circular apertures which, being out of phase between one plane and the other, trigger a sense of optical instability. In the Intersuperfici Scheggi experimented with the relations between different levels of space: the prefix “inter” contains the idea of crossing, of the gaze and the work itself, which interacts unexpectedly with viewers, activating their perceptual faculties. The same prefix would be used by the artist for his works of an environmental nature, including Intercamera plastica (“Plastic Interchamber”, 1967), which established the point of arrival of the process of the conquest of space.

The work was no longer an object to be looked at but an experience: Scheggi’s works presented themselves as “spatial operations where space is no longer seen as a real and logical place, but as a field whose essential characteristic is to turn forms from pure concepts into ‘spatial concepts’, which define space by constituting elements of coordination of our existence in it,” wrote Germano Celant in 1966. In Naples Scheggi’s work was presented on two important occasions: in 1969 the Modern Art Agency dedicated an exhibition to him which presented his Intersuperfici curve, while in 1974 the gallery Il Centro exhibited his works, paying tribute to the artist after his premature death.

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