Italian-American artist Salvatore Scarpitta’s (b. 1919 – d. 2007) multimedia oeuvre remained on the fringes of most defined movements of his time, despite associations with both Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art. Scarpitta’s work employed a certain brand of Americana combined with an Arte Povera sensibility, resulting in paintings and sculptures that are emotive and overarchingly hopeful. For Scarpitta, the personal narrative was inseparable from the work, which could be classified in three distinct groups: wrap paintings, cars and sleds. The artist’s early bandage paintings begun in 1958 reveal a desire to heal and reconcile the horrors of WWII, while simultaneously expressing the contemporary ideals of redefining painting. His early racecars were inoperable simulacra, but later cars made in the 1980’s, with Castelli Gallery as sponsor, went from the studio, to the track, to the gallery—laying the groundwork for performance art, concurrently melding the Readymade and Futurism. Finally the sleds combine wrapping elements with elements of life from birthing gowns to funeral biers. For Scarpitta the cars and sleds were literal expressions of what he felt was embodied within all of his work: life, death, rebirth, and movement.
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