Italo Scanga restorations arrive at the Athenaeum in La Jolla

This collage painting with tree sculpture is one of many pieces of sheet music painted over by the artist in the 1990s. Roy Porello
This collage painting with tree sculpture is one of many pieces of sheet music painted over by the artist in the 1990s. Roy Porello

By Lonnie Burstein Hewitt

No doubt about it: This is the season of Italo Scanga.

Ten years after his death, the second of two exhibitions celebrating the work of this versatile artist (who spent his last 23 years in La Jolla) is at the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library, June 25 through July 31. In April, the Oceanside Museum of Art focused on his ability to turn mundane things like potatoes, kitchenware, and hand tools into art in a show called “Looking for a Miracle?” (See “Italo Scanga Returns to Life”‘returns’-to-life-via-his-works-now-on-exhibit-in-oceanside/


This month, a companion exhibition, organized by Stephanie Scanga, former wife of the artist and installation consultant at the Athenaeum, will show more of the breadth of his work in “RESTORATIONS: ART AND ARTIFACTS: Italo Scanga at the Athenaeum.”

Included will be reconstructions of several of his early installations, collage paintings, sculptures, catalogues and books.

Several of these pieces were previously shown at Scanga’s first Athenaeum exhibit, in 1992. There were two more exhibits over the following decade, before his untimely death in 2001.

“This time, we’re concentrating on his work from the 1950s through the 1990s,” said Erika Torri, executive director of the Athenaeum. “We’ll re-enact some of his installations from the ‘70s, and we’ll have a whole wall of the photos he did of his hometown in Calabria for Look Magazine. He won many awards for his photos, and some of them are in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.”

Scanga took the black-and-white photographs in the mid-‘50s, on a trip back to Italy with his widowed mother.

“I know almost everyone in the photographs,” he wrote. “As a matter of fact, they are my relatives, uncles, aunts, cousins, teachers, and my childhood friends.”

Torri said the intention of the exhibition is to give a real sense of the flow of Scanga’s artistic life, and the combined influences of his Italian roots and his delight in American materials.

”You’ll see some of his ‘70’s installations — they’re very peaceful and beautiful. They remind you of Italy, though the pieces all come from here. And we’ll show some of his ‘80’s collaborations, the prints that he did with Brighton Press, which offered local artists a space to do fine prints.”

Of course, since the Athenaeum is a music and arts library, there will also be music — sheet music that the artist painted over in the ‘90s, and ceramics with musical themes.

Like Scanga himself, Restorations promises to be eclectic, thought provoking, and invigorating.

If you go


“Restorations. Art and Artifacts: Italo Scanga at the Athenaeum”


10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays; to 8:30 p.m. Wednesdays to July 30


Athenaeum Music & Arts Library, 1008 Wall St.




(858) 454-5872


Opening Reception:

6:30-8:30 p.m. June 24

More Italo Scanga

: “Looking for a Miracle?” to Aug. 21 at Oceanside Museum of Art, 704 Pier View Way, (760) 435-3720,



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