Paolo Scheggi was born in Settignano in 1940 and attended art college and the academy of fine arts in Florence. Still very young, between ’58 and ’60 he was already making his first sheet metal works, which were displayed at the Numero gallery in Florence in ’60, and his first canvases which were to lead to the overlapping ones in the following years. His first personal exhibition - Itinerario plastico prestabilito – was held in ’61 at the Vigna Nuova gallery in Florence.
Scheggi’s work started off from the last tendencies of Art Informel and New Dadaism, which he immediately took his distance from, in the same way that he left the Florentine area, too much of a backwater for a curious artist hungry for new experiences. He moved temporarily to London (where he discovered the works of Mondrian and Arp) where he attended a course on Visual Design. As of ’61 he set up in Milan, the pulsing core of contemporary art. Here, under the prevailing presence of Fontana, the air was heavy with excitement. And so the artist established a strong working relationship and comradeship with a group of young people, Alviani, Bonalumi, Castellani and Manzoni, who under the stimulus of the artistic waves created by Pollock, Max Bill and Klein, worked in contrast to Art Informel. They were defined by Gillo Dorfles as “objectual artists”, that is, creators of “picture/objects” which with their mix of colour and matter went beyond figurative or abstract painting. In ’62, his personal exhibition at the Galleria Il Cancello in Bologna was presented by Lucio Fontana.
In the mere three decades of his life (he died in Rome in ’71 of a heart disease that he was conscious of having) and in particular as of ’64, the year in which he married Franca dall’Acqua, Scheggi condensed his work; work which, from the first experiments to his last “actions”, showed the great artistic maturity and coherence that he had achieved. Already at the beginning of the ‘60s his interests were aimed not only at painting, but also architecture, literature (e.g. he founded and worked on magazines such as Il Malinteso in ‘60, Marcatrè in ‘65, Nuova Corrente in ‘67, In in ’69 and he drafted a novel of visual poetry from ’62 to ’65) and the theatre.
In ’62 at Germana Marucelli’s Milanese dressmakers (a leading personality in Italian fashion at the time, the person behind the diffusion of optical style) he tried out his project for plastic integration in architecture: interchangeable spatial modules which could transform the space in accordance with different requirements. The space itself had to succumb to the artist’s need for formal research and spiritual rigour, which demanded an interconnection between painting, design, graphics, architecture and fashion. ‘…In creating an intersurface that in addition to Space/Time also grasps the total sense of architecture for a “new man”…, planning becomes an absolute imperative.’ He developed bonds with architecture, and with Mendini and Olivieri who were involved in research into “total planning”; with Nozzoli he designed the ESCS housing development Unità di abitazione CECA and the new district in Bratislava. ‘Art and society, as well as the object, in an infinite and usable space.’
In ’64 he had his first personal exhibition abroad, at the Smith gallery in Brussels. This was to be followed by many more, amongst which, in 1966, Section Constructiviste at the “XXI Salon de Realitées Nouvelles”, at the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris; Nueva Tendencja Italiana, organised by Umbro Apollonio for the museum of modern art in Buenos Aires; Weis auf Weis at the Kunsthalle in Bern; Realtà dell’immagine e strutture della visione, organised by Maurizio Calvesi at Il Cerchio gallery in Rome. He was invited to the XXXIII Biennale in Venice. His work was followed constantly by important critics, from Celant to Trini, Bonito Oliva to Fagiolo dell’Arco, and Argan.
In ’67 he created the Intercamera Plastica (Plastic Interchamber), inter-spatial methods for plastic integrations in architecture. The space could be modelled, the work became practicable. He took part in architectural projects and his works were exhibited at Expo 67 in Montreal, at the Biennale in Paris, at the Museo Sperimentale d’Arte Contemporanea and the Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna in Turin, and at the museum of modern art in Copenhagen. He lectured in Psychology of the Form at the academy of fine arts in L’Aquila.
His last works were increasingly linked to research in the sphere of performance, confirming that the function of painting and sculpture was veering towards modes of expression connected with the theatre and other forms of “visual” communication. In representing “other art” he was able to combine everything that he had always dedicated himself to: painting, sculpture, architecture, objects and environment, gestures and coordination, to achieve a total experience. In ‘68 he was actively involved in experimental theatre with the Piccolo in Milan, organising the Interventi Plastico-Visuali (Plastic-Visual Interventions) for the play Visita alla prova dell’Isola purpurea (Trip to the Rehearsals of Crimson Island) by Bulgakov+Scabia; the action Garone e Geremia s.p.a. (Garone and Jeremiah Inc.) was presented with Gambone, Isgrò and Sacchi at the Galleria d’Arte Moderna in Bologna and Autospettacolo (Self-Spectacle) was put on in Caorle in ‘69. He started to use “alphabets”, the stage for the performance was dotted with enormous letters/sounds/words, true performances, like the Oplà-Stick operation from ‘69 (Passione secondo Paolo Scheggi – Passion according to Paolo Scheggi -, “action theatre” presented at Il Naviglio in Milan and then repeated in Zagreb at the Nouvelle Tendance event) and Oplà from the Flori gallery onto the streets of Florence, with the presence of letter-characters. Dies Irae, Inquisizione secondo Paolo Scheggi e Franca Sacchi (Dies Irae, Inquisition according to Paolo Scheggi and Franca Sacchi) was presented at the Teatro Manzoni in Milan, at the Teatro del Palazzo degli Estensi in Varese, and at Space Electronic in Florence. In Marcia funebre o della geometria, processione secondo Paolo Scheggi (Funeral or Geometrical March, Procession according to Paolo Scheggi), presented in Piazza Duomo in Como for the Campo Urbano event, Scheggi presented a funeral as a work of art – a celebration of death itself and the death of all geometrically ordered things.
In the next year (the year of the projects with Vincenzo Agnetti Il Trono (The Throne) for the Mana-art-Market gallery in Rome and Il Tempio (The Temple), with 7 ambienti autopunitivi per 7 spazi neutri (7 Self-punishing Environments for 7 Neutral Spaces) he entered the symbolic/political sphere; he made La tomba della geometria (The Tomb of Geometry) for the Amore mio exhibition in Montepulciano, La Piramide (The Pyramid) for the Vitalità del negativo exhibition in Rome and in the Eurodomos exhibition in Milan he dedicated his Ondosa environment to the birth of his daughter Cosima-Ondosa-Serenissima.
The last plastic exhibition/work in ’71 was Seiprofetiperseigeometrie (6 prophets for 6 geometries) at Il Naviglio, which would be presented along with Tomba della geometria in ’72 at the XXXVI Biennale in Venice.
In the following decades, numbering among the posthumous exhibitions that would be dedicated to him were the exhibition at the Galleria d’Arte Moderna in Bologna (Bologna, ‘76), at the Sala d’Arme in Palazzo Vecchio (Florence, ‘83), at Il Naviglio gallery (Milan, 1990), Galleria Niccoli (Parma, 2002) and this year at the Colossi (Chiari), Il Ponte and Tornabuoni galleries (Florence).