by Lance Esplund
Vol. 15, Number 1, Spring, 2002
Ease of movement through an artwork has to be a goal of the artist so that the viewer will continue to explore. Salvatore Federico, whose one-person show of new, abstract paintings and drawings was exhibited recently at Amos Eno Gallery, allows us plenty of room to roam. In Federicos paintings, purity and a reduction of means actively assert themselves in forms that achieve powerful results.
Federico creates iconic shifts between figure and ground in flat, two-colour compositions. Each of his canvases is named after a saint, but as far as I can tell the relationship is purely a formal and general one: the tension between weightless ascension and an anchoring in the plane. In each canvas, a large, hard-edged and flat, single-coloured form is positioned within a field of flat colour. The forms, lifting as they turn, torque strenuously against their grounds. Many of the canvases feel like abstract distillations of the conflicting strain between above and below, left and right, experienced in crucifixions.
The logo-like forms in Federicos paintings achieve beautiful states of balance between floating and flying, stasis and spinning, aerial view and profile. Forceful enough to hold our attention, and universal enough to be enigmatic, the forms continually open themselves to the viewer. A diagonal may reach deep into space as it warps its field colour forward, opening the plane and activating ground into form. One contour-edge may drop with guillotine swiftness as its opposite side drifts calmly and airily upward. The colours, at times pastel and balmy, at others deep, primary and cool, suggest a variety of natural or seasonal relationships. Stark, and somewhere between folding inward and outward, the forms resemble the structural energies of birds, blossoms, leaves and crystals. Federico is an artist whose presence in the paintings is barely felt, and because of this we are able to navigate freely through his inventions, as we rediscover and take delight in the dynamics of nature.