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"Art by Sal Federico: Sharp, Vibrant"
by Elise Freda
Middletown Times Herald-Record
February 3, 2000

Drive down the dirt road to Sal Federico’s house near Jeffersonville, and you enter a world of pure geometry. Long horizontals of snow-covered fields are broken by the verticals of a pristine gray-blue house and barn. The background is a wide expanse of cerulean sky. Colorful and simple. The overall effect is like entering a Sal Federico painting.

Federico celebrates color. A room full of his paintings looks like a rainbow close up. Color is so vital to Federico’s work that he keeps a color diary. The pages are filled with hand-painted groupings of two or three colors, side-by-side. Purple vibrates against yellow, blue looks lush next to green, and orange jumps beside blue. By leafing through the pages of his book, Federico finds the color combinations for his paintings.

“First I find my forms, then I find the color,” said Federico. “I use the most saturated color possible.”

During the month of February, art appreciators can have a similar visual experience by walking into the SAI Gallery, 529 W. 20th St., 4E in Chelsea- New York City’s newest art district. A solo exhibition of Federico’s paintings opens there from 6-8 p.m. Saturday. The exhibit will be on view through Feb. 26.

“Rose of Lima,” one of the paintings in the SAI Gallery show, started out as most of Federico’s paintings do – as a doodle. He uses a piece of tracing paper over-laid on a hexagonal grid. When he sketches, Federico makes intuitive visual choices – how far a line goes, how sharp an angle is, how much space extends above, below, and around a shape, and whether or not it is symmetrical.

“I push my shapes around until I find the most perfect character I can,” said Federico.

Federico studied painting in Virginia at Richmond Professional Institute and worked with sculptor Tony Smith during a graduate fellowship at Hunter College. Federico went on to have a long career as a teacher in the arts and as a visiting artist. He’s exhibited at The Drawing Center in New York City and at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

Being a Sullivan County artist has played a significant role in the paintings that Federico is showing at the SAI Gallery. He started drawings for the series while he was in New York City. He thought the imagery was too complicated. Then one day in his studio in the barn, Federico had an epiphany.

“It was very, very quiet,” he said. “Outside every window were these big, open, simple spaces. Suddenly it was quite clear to me – a single shape can stand alone.” A new group of paintings was conceived.

“These paintings could not have happened in the city,” said Federico. “Living here made these pictures possible.”

© Copyright 2003–2006. Salvatore Federico. Website by Freda + Flaherty Creative.