Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Reality Amidst the Abstraction

The painting shown above caught my eye last month in a gallery on El Paseo in Palm Desert, California. It has a lot of Abstract Expressionism business going on, yet it also contains an image that is representational and for the most part correctly proportioned. (The open mouth on the figure to the left is exaggerated, but nothing like the usual Postmodernist nudge-nudge, hey I'm being Ironic distortions gracing all too many gallery walls these days.)

The artist is Vanni Saltarelli. A biographical snippet is here and a slightly longer one (in Italian) is here.

Saltarelli earns his keep by portraying mostly undressed women, but also does other scenes for variety, as can be seen below.

I find his work interesting and rather likable thanks to the representational elements, though occasionally he spoils things by getting the shape of, say, an arm a bit wrong (see painting above).

But of course there's nothing new under the sun, as the saying goes. Consider the paintings below.

These paintings are by Kenneth Callahan (1905-1986), one of those "mystic" Pacific Northwest painters I wrote about here. A longish biography of Callahan is here. Interestingly, it mentions that Callahan didn't consider himself a "mystic" (a true self-assessment, I think) and didn't think Guy Anderson should have been included either (I also agree).

As for Callahan's work, I was never taken with it. A case of an artist active before 1945 who was trying to come to terms with Modernism and simply struggled without coming to a breakthrough style. Saltarelli, who seems to have been born in the 1940s, strikes me as being comfortable with Modernism, and thereby able to transcend it.

No comments: