29 April 2022

06 April 2022

Angelo Caravaglia's Fountain Sculpture at the Wallace F Bennett Building

Another locally famous sculpture by Angelo Caravaglia is a cast stone fountain in front of the Wallace F. Bennett Federal Building at 125 S State Salt Lake City, which debuted in 1966.

Caravaglia was prolific with his art, especially in the 1960s. In 1963 following a return from Italy his title at the University of Utah was changed to “three-dimensional designer” to better reflect his work. Notably, in 1964 he carved the wood doors of St. Margaret’s Chapel at Rowland Hall and in 1965 he was selected to create a bronze fountain for the old Salt Lake City Library (now the Leonardo).

The sculpture for the Federal Building was commissioned in 1965 under the Art in Architecture program and was a collaboration between architects Lloyd Snedeker and Wesley Budd and artist Angelo Caravaggio.

Snedeker recalled that “we didn’t want the usual pioneer woman but a contemporary statue. This reflects to some degree the shapes of the window mullions, the cast stone dividers and other architectural elements [of the Federal Building]."

Budd further explained that “when the sun shines on the sculpture the shadows offer many changing moods and the tone will seem to change color. We made several studies of a suitable sculpture and we are pleased with it.” And “the sculpture doesn’t represent anything in particular. We hope it will be pleasing to passers-by and serve as a conversation piece. “ 

The sculpture is a functional fountain and stands within a pool of water. Each of the 14 unique columns is piped separately for water. The spraying water runs in grooves etched into the design. The color of the material was specially selected to glisten in the lights at dark.

The reactions to the sculpture by Salt Lakers were mixed. Most were confused and asked what it was. Some praised it and found it to be appropriate for a growing city.

And some Salt Lakers disliked it, a lot. One man called it “lousy” and another said he would rather go back to the past if this sculpture represented modern art. And there was this classic response: It looks like heck.”

Caravaglia was not disturbed by any of the comments about the sculpture. His only direct response was that “The material it is made from will last a long, long time.”

Of note, this fountain has been featured in some local cult classic films including Revenge of the Ninja (1983) and Ruben and Ed (1991)

Clip from "Revenge of the Ninja" film from 1983
Clip from "Ruben and Ed" film from 1991

04 April 2022

Angelo Caravaglia's Twin Bronze Sculptures on the Ma Bell Building

These twin bronze sculptures (fraternal, not identical) on the corner of 200 S and 200 East SLC at the old Mountain Bell building were created by noted Salt Lake City artist Angelo Caravaglia.

Bronze sculptures by Angelo Caravaglia, Mountain Bell building, 205 E 200 South Salt Lake City, 2022.

Mountain Bell (Ma Bell) Building 205 E 200 South SLC, 2022

Detail of the southwest corner of the Mountain Bell (Ma Bell) Building 205 E 200 South SLC, 2022. Note the unfortunate placement of a bus stop shelter and bike station in front of the sculptures.

 Caravaglia was born in 1925 to Italian immigrant parents in Erie, PA where at 9 years old he began carving soap with his pocketknife. He served in the US Army during WWII and when honorably discharged soon returned to his studies and to art.

When he was 31 years old, in 1956, the UofU recruited him to break up the stuffy Art Department where Caravaglia and fellow artist V. Douglas Snow brought some mid-century modernism to the U’s conservative sculpture department.

For years Caravaglia exhibited locally and throughout the art world, but it wasn’t until 1966 that regular Salt Lakers took notice of his art, and they didn’t much like what they saw. He was commissioned by the GSA of the federal government to create an art piece for the new Wallace F. Bennett Federal Building (125 S State).

Angelo Caravaglia, from Deseret News June 14 1966.

Angelo Caravaglia's sculpture in front of the Wallace F. Bennett Federal Building (125 S State) 

Although some Salt Lakers enjoyed Caravaglia sculpture at the Federal Building, most complained with one saying it looked like “a forest of monkey wrenches.” More on this piece later.

This poor reaction to Caravaglia’s work for the federal building in 1966 may be why there was little fanfare for the unveiling of Caravaglia’s sculptures at the Mountain Bell building in 1971. Only a single newspaper article noted it, and that was written by fellow University of Utah Art Professor, George S. Dibble.

Dibble described the bronzes as warm and intimate, a convincing theme of communication. Dibble continued: Figurative elements evolving from a strong central organism move out succinctly in vertical thrusts and in graceful lateral outsweeps. Modulated light falls gently on precise edges, dividing cleanly chiseled surfaces that return crisply to the wall. Central units are engaged in contrasts of palpable depth and flowing elements of conformation and change set up notions of continuing energy.

The sculpture was prepared in Styrofoam (a new material at the time) and plaster; it was cast in the bronze foundries at Pietrasanta, Italy.

Bronze sculpture on the east side of the Mountain States building.
Bronze sculpture on the south side of the Mountain States building
Caravaglia has several pieces in public and private collections along the Wasatch Front. You have likely seen his work and just not known who created it. More info at www.angelocaravaglia.com

Angelo Caravaglia's official portrait, from the artist's website.

At present, the new owner of the old Mountain Bell building is considering their options regarding the sculpture. Current plans are to reuse the building into a new housing project.

  • In Memoriam Angelo Caravaglia: 1925-2008. www.artistsofutah.org
  • The Morning Call Oct 12 1966
  • The Salt Lake Tribune Nov 28 1971
  • The Salt Lake Tribune May 25 1986
  • www.angelocaravaglia.com