Sebastian Spreng: Salad Bar
By Janet Batet
“Salad Bar” is the title of the upcoming solo show by Argentinian Miami-based painter Sebastian Spreng, and will be on display in May 2011 at Kelley Roy Gallery in the Wynwood Art District.
Born in Santa Fe in 1956, Sebastian Spreng has a multifaceted career spanning more than four decades of tireless work. His bucolic and enigmatic landscapes are a visual and acoustic experience at once, music being a crucial inspiration for his oeuvre. “In the beginning,” he said, “I was highly moved by the German composers: from Bach to Wagner, Schönberg, and Webern. Then Mozart, Mahler, and Schubert-[the latter] my two favorites-became a perennial presence in my work.”
Paul Klee, C. D. Friedrich, and Rothko appear as the most relevant visual influences for the artist whose work deals with the space, color, and rhyme in a very particular way. Without a doubt, the space is one of the most dramatic components of art, whether visual or acoustic. The tension and dialogue between elements in the composition, as well as the “air” between them, are two of the most creative and powerful resources in art. This vital space, known as interval in music, can be correlated with the distance between the elements in a visual composition.
In Spreng’s oeuvre, vast and desolate spaces are crucial. We see enigmatic landscapes populated most of the time by a lonely tree. This meaningful emptiness that suspends our breath is emphasized by the horizon: liminal space, vortex, existence in extremis, transgression, and possibility. We respond to a synesthetic experience that stimulates all our senses at once, inviting us down a path that has two simultaneous tracks: as we move deep inside the canvas we get deep inside the soul.
In “Salad Bar,” Spreng adds a new key element: inviting the viewer to become an active participant. Integrated by 250 artworks whose dimensions range from 5″ x 5″ to 8″ x 8″, the show presents the canvases in shelves in a buffet-style look. Transformed into performers, we the viewers are encouraged to rearrange the general composition that, left to the chance, becomes a sort of aleatoric music piece.
In a symbolic way, this “smorgasbord” style presentation means a new departure for the artist; it is an atomization of his previous series, the “Liederkreis,” and, in a certain way, there’s a metaphor of destiny suggested here, as avatar and uncertainty, a puzzle-like composition echoing life itself. From an autobiographical standpoint, the series is born of necessity: “It’s a way of concentrating energy in small work, since for physical reasons I can work big less and less. As everything in life, it was born out necessity.”
“Salad Bar” is a playful invitation into a philosophical introspection about our role in the world, our motivations, dreams, and endeavors. Moreover, it is above all a call for conciliation with nature, art, and ourselves. Bon appétit.
“Sebastian Spreng: Salad Bar.” Kelley Roy Gallery. 50 NE 29th St. Miami, FL, 33137. Phone 305 447 3888 / www.kelleyroygallery.com
Janet Batet is an independent curator, art critic and essayist based in Miami, FL.