Everyone knows the difference between good salad bars and terrible ones. The latter are limp, wilted, depressing. The former are fresh, filled with color and taste. The “Salad Bar“ that just opened at the Kelley Roy Gallery is the best kind, just delicious.
The 250 mostly small oil paintings that make up Sebastian Spreng‘s exhibit are exquisite. Lined up seven to a row on two walls, the small works were being snapped up on opening night, reds dots popping up right and left. And for a range starting at $500, why not?
The paintings in this salad bowl are of several types: Some are simply abstract color; some are of leafless trees; and the remaining are shrouded, veiled images of faces, ships, roads. The etched trees jump out at first — barren, lonely branches in somber tones. A variation on the theme crops up throughout the exhibit, including one of the few larger paintings (the brownish-hued one on the back wall is not to be missed).
But, in the end, it may be the dreamy, obscured portraits that are most memorable.
One such canvas (they are 5 inches by 5 inches big) is a blurred view of a highway snaking through a red-earth land, maybe in the Southwest. In the depth of the background, a dot suggests a human swallowed up by this landscape. In another, a tiny figure seems to be floating in a pool. A ship’s bow is emerging from a mist and haze in one canvas. From another: a haunting, cloudy image of a face, maybe behind bars, but it’s not clear.
However, the overall impression here is bright, resembling a tapestry from a distance, the wide range of colors meshing, the individual portraits receding, merging into a whole, becoming an installation. Indeed, stand back and it has the garden feel that the title suggests, that of a fresh salad.
The artist Spreng is as interesting as his canvases. A native of Argentina, he has shown all over the globe and is represented in numerous collections. He’s also been a stage designer and continues to write about another love, classical music. After transplanting to Florida, he was commissioned to create a public work for Miami-Dade Art in Public Places, a tribute he created for the “American with Disabilities Trailblazers.” Spreng has muscular dystrophy, but it wasn’t slowing him down on opening night as he moved around in his electric chair greeting the arrivals. This garden is alive and blooming. Make sure you take a stroll through it.
“Salad Bar” at Kelley Roy Gallery, 50 N.E. 29th St., Wynwood; 305-447-3888; kelleyroygallery.com.