Last Fourth Friday, former UT professor Joe Testa-Secca’s career retrospective exhibition opened at the Scarfone/Hartley Gallery in downtown Tampa.
Curating the exhibition was a challenge for Francesca Bacci, she admitted during a brief gallery talk. Even a 4,500-square-foot exhibition space wasn't enough to display it all. She had to cull through 60 years of artwork, and Testa-Secca didn’t always agree with her on what to include and what not to include.
Then there was the issue of how to arrange the artwork. I might have enjoyed a chronological arrangement, where Testa-Secca’s evolution would have been more obvious. But doing it this way, I think, would have presented its own challenges.
Bacci decided to group the work by theme. She mentions eight different themes in her gallery talk:
1. Public works
2. The 1980s rock star/Hollywood phase
3. The cross as a compositional feature
5. Nature and puzzles
6. Psychedelic art
7. American Indian struggles
8. Drafting/drawing as a foundation for his technique
Walking around the space, I understood how some of these themes were brief explorations or phases, like the '80s rock-star phase, while others were lifelong fascinations, like Testa-Secca's studies of the human figure.
Given Testa-Secca’s local popularity, Bacci had to grab art from all over Tampa for the show, about 55 works total. Many came from the homes of private collectors, their names listed on the adjacent labels. Many came from Testa-Secca's studio collection.
I am most drawn to the patterns in Testa-Secca’s work. So much of his artwork is dominated by these patterns, whether it be alternating patches of light and dark, colorful stripes, dots or puzzle pieces. Art like this is sometimes referred to as fragmentation or deconstruction art, and it was popular in the late 20th century, when Testa-Secca was actively teaching and creating art at the University of Tampa.
Two hours on a Tampa Fourth Friday wasn't nearly enough time to digest all the artwork populating UT’s ginormous Scarfone/Hartley Gallery. This is one of the reasons I'm looking forward to the closing reception next Fourth Friday, February 22, from 6-8 p.m. The other reason is that the exhibition catalog will be released during the closing reception, and I hear Testa-Secca may be present to sign them.
The Testa-Secca exhibition catalog is only the second produced by the University. They did their first with the Pedro Pablo Oliva exhibition in 2018, and it was so successful they decided to continue producing these catalogs. The Testa-Secca exhibition catalog includes essays from gallery curator Francesca Bacci and CL alum Caitlin Albritton alongside reproductions of Testa-Secca’s works.
You can pre-order your copy here.
Modernism Reimagined: Joe Testa-Secca in Full Color
Scarfone/Hartley Gallery, 310 North Blvd., Tampa | Through Feb. 22.: Tue.-Fri., 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Sat., 1-4 p.m.; Closing reception Feb. 22, 6-8 p.m. | 813-253-6217 | ut.edu/scarfonehartleygallery