What Other's Say about Sal Zagami's Art
Although still a relatively small city, Fort Lauderdale already boasts many very good visual artists. Salvatore Zagami is one of the most accomplished of these. I noticed his sculpture when I first came to live in South Florida in 1989. The Museum of Art was able to acquire a large example of his work. Mamey 1, in 1993, a piece that has been much admired. Also a Zagami sculpture provided the frontispiece of the Museum’s “focus on Fort Lauderdale” group exhibition in 1992. So it is fitting that this first museum survey show of Zagami’s work be presented by the Museum of Art. We can all be proud that such an original and ambitious artist lives in our community.
Dr. Kenworth Moffett
Zagami: A Quarter Century of Sculpture
As a sculptor, Salvatore Zagami’s main intent is to make us think, to raise new questions in our minds. Not that Zagami will provide answers to these questions; he is averse to assigning specific meanings to any of his pieces. Yet his works, often confrontational and emotionally gut-wrenching, demand that we stop, take notice, and contemplate.
Since the early 1980s, Zagami has been stimulating thought by juxtaposing or combining seemingly diverse, unrelated forms in a single piece. In Man’s Best Friend, for example, a dog’s muzzle replaces the breasts of a female torso. The immediate effects are absurd, outrageous, off beat. Yet such surreal juxtapositions evoke thoughts about serious contemporary women in male-dominated societies? Are men today reluctant to unleash women - who they sometimes have considered mere accessories - and to allow them to be independent force in society?
Zagami can even take something as innocuous as the ubiquitous “smiley” face - which has adorned countless buttons, T-shirts, and bumper stickers - and by replacing its eyes with human skulls, create a disturbing image which addresses the loss of security we have experienced recently in the modern world. Can we trust the smiling face which seems to beckon innocently? According to Zagami, by crating startling visual associations, he hopes to cause “the spectator to reach into his inventory of thoughts and then provoke some kind of referencing, either to himself or to society or even to the artist.”
Zagami’s work has not always been so provocative. In the early 1970s, as a sculptor fresh out of college, he used traditional media such as clay, plaster, and marble, and much of his work was abstract and thus more impressive for its spiritual rather than thought provoking qualities. Soon he discovered the possibilities of plastics. First, while it was in a liquid state, he swirled plastic with vibrant colors; then, when it solidified, he sculpted and polished it into massive rock-like forms, which he describes as “an integration of painting with sculpture.” Later, using a similar technique, he chemically “drew” colored lines in clear plastic to create three - dimensional, encapsulated spaces. These plastic pieces were experiments with pure form and color.
Although abstract work appears in Zagami’s oeuvre as late as 1987, around 1980 his sculpture started to become more representational. “Technique became secondary,” he explains. “Now I was interested in conveying concepts, sparking ideas.” He continued to work with plastic, but it now took on the look of steel, and he began to use a variety of media. In Crossing, he incorporated a found object - a traffic sign - with other sculpted forms, such as disembodied hands pierced with oversized bolts, to evoke religious connotations and to allude to the restrictions imposed on the individual in contemporary society.
Where do these quirky, unconventional associations come form? "Every sculpture has a point of departure that I come off of"' Zagami explains. “There are just certain things, events, everyday stimuli that cause the fleeting thought, the birth of the piece. But he doesn't begin sculpting spontaneously. “I have a thought about a piece” he continues, “but I don’t start it on the first day. It has to haunt me for a while. If it continues to haunt me, then I do it.” In his twenty-fifth year as a professional sculptor, Zagami continues to create stimulating work which, in turn, haunts us, his audience, long after we view it.
Artist statement: my recent sculpture
is a combination of state-of-the-art techniques, an integration of
plastics and metals creating a material illusionsism as well as an
intellectual statement. The imaginary deals with fragmented and figurative
symbols that provide memory recall and cross-referencing which stimulate
a variety of responses at different rates of comprehension.
my art is my only way to participate in the world.
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