"Salvatore Federico at Amos Eno"
by Lance Esplund
Art in America
In the seven new abstract paintings that comprised his recent show, Salvatore Federico continues to work with two-color, hard-edge compositions that fall within the tradition of late Matisse, Ellsworth Kelly and Tony Smith, Federico's teacher. Embedding a single flat shape within an equally flat ground color, Federico achieves an acrobatic equilibrium in paintings that pack a knockout punch. Plants, gems, embryos, dancers and the evolution of letterforms, weapons and tools are only a few of the many associations inspired by these pared-down irregular forms.
In Aidan (2002), just under 7 feet wide and the largest work on view, a 12-sided maroon shape is held within a vibrant orange field. The taut form suggests a flying "W," bird, battle-ax or flame, and simultaneously presses downward, expands like an accordian and opens skyward. Alipius (2002), a lime green zigzag on a mellow red ground, sails like a boomerang and is oddly clownish.
In the painting In Memory of Anthony D'Addio (2002), a deep blue lightning-bolt, pirouetting gracefully on pointe yet also seeming like a crucifixion is suspended in a field of electric red. Elbowing from side to side, the blue soothes like ice on sunburn. The centerline, as in all of Federico's compositions, is torqued, difficult to pin down, as if the picture plane had been subjected to origami folds. Here as elsewhere in Federico's oeuvre, a beautiful equipoise is achieved between ascent and descent, static and dynamic, figure and ground.
Each work in this well-planned exhibition has a rich yet subtle range; and the jazz-ensemble feel of the installation allowed each painting to ricochet and play off the next. The smallest pieces, though beautiful, can feel overly objectlike. Federico is at his best when he works large, when his forms are human in scale and feel suspended as they suspend us between flying and falling, between restraint and release.