Painting from a live sitter, a photograph, a forgotten artifact, or filming his artistic process while painting portraits of exceptional artists, are energizing sources for Bradford J. Salamon. Tapping into a rich palette of information, the artist transforms the essence of direct painting through layers of skill, memories, emotions, and soulful passions. His art overflows with vibrant possibilities; a 21st century vision rendered through multiple and diverse processes, media, and tools.
Salamon is known for his figurative paintings and drawings of individuals and groups who engage in profound human scenarios. Currently, he expands his repertoire to include intimate portraits of vintage objects of yesteryear, as well as films about artists and the nature of creativity. Knowing that content cannot be conveyed in just one work of art, or expressed in only one medium, Salamon has found his personal solution. While portraiture is one of the oldest subjects, Salamon brings a newer dimension to the tried and true art. He renders in-depth views of each sitter, a biographical approach, a dialogue as he captures the many aspects of the sitter through multi-media in various sessions.
The artist, who never lacks for commissions, prefers to choose a sitter, rather than have someone ask him “to do” a portrait. Those he decides to portray in depth are people he highly admires – creative artists, writers, and musicians. In this approach, the artist builds a stockpile of reflections, capturing ever-evolving nuances of character, personality, drama, and story. He gets into the psyche of the sitter, painting a more accurate reality of each person he portrays.
Salamon combines traditional techniques with documentation to celebrate a person’s life. His biographical approach results in a rich bounty of art that deepens the relationship between sitter and artist. Once the many works of art concerning one person are assembled, the soul of the sitter and the soul of the artist can more truthfully emerge.
Among his subjects is a portrait of Eric Johnson, the contemporary sculptor who is a master at capturing scientific concepts in abstract sculptural form. In his work Johnson uses super bright colors with space-age surfaces that are clean and smooth. Salamon, however paints the sculptor in deep browns and grays as if he portrays (portrays not portrayed) him in Rembrandt’s time. In this way, Salamon shows that an artist of the caliber of Johnson creates timeless art that is connected to all art history, not just to our era of slick modernity.
With pencil, charcoal, paint, or camera, Salamon meets the sitter as if for the first time, finding fresh qualities, which may not have been revealed in previous sessions. Working with several portraits over extended and various lengths of time, Salamon states that painting many intimate renderings of the same person: “Deepens my relationships with other human beings that no other act would accomplish. The process of painting is an interaction which cannot be done from memory. Human beings are three-dimensional. In order to portray the real person, the artist must interact. Spending hours and hours cannot help but deepen the connection and affect the art. This close kinship brings out the intimate details of the sitter and his or her creative nature; and the artist’s response to it.”
The stereotype of the artist and sitter is that the artist paints while the sitter remains immobile. However, Salamon is interested in portraying a flesh and blood human, an energetic individual, a multidimensional alive person rendered through multiple media. Consequently, he allows the viewer to move and talk, ensuring that the art never becomes stale. As he blocks in color, bone structure, light and dark and overall contour, the person dialogues with him, turning, moving, and animating a range of gestures. As Salamon applies washes of color, he builds up planes where corners of planes shift or come together, and body structures alter.
Add to this that Salamon is aware of the three-dimensionality of color, light and temperature, the heat and cool that color emits. Salamon does not stop in the process. He makes alterations, color adjustments, determines how clothing relates to each other, or how the background dialogues with the foreground. Continuously talking, moving a brush rapidly, mixing paint, and checking the person in front of him, he monitors all phases of the emerging painting.
Using his iPhone while working is an added bonus; when there is a stop in the action, he not only takes a picture of his painting, but soon develops a collection of stages in the painting’s progress. For Salamon, reducing the painting to a smaller image, along with different views helps him be aware of the many facets of the process. Looking at an image he may have created minutes before allows him to transcend time, to be in more than one time zone as he builds the image, like an architect aware of all phases and dimensions of a building being erected.
Salamon blocks out specific details and makes determinations to check edges, hard edges, soft edges, or contrasts, such as in the mouth and corners of the mouth. Color of hair, skin, eyes, merge along with the soft edges as bodily planes meet, as he continuously works outward in, going from large to smaller areas and then to subtle details.
At times, he works from a static image such as a photograph. To overcome the possibility of becoming dry, he returns to his life drawings for reference. He does not draw while he paints, but looks at the many sketches such as those on his iPhone to review their essence more quickly.
Asked why he now is drawn to vintage objects such as a discarded oil can, an outdated typewriter, or unknown gadgetry, he responds: “I will paint people forever, as they are always important to me. But my fascination with inanimate objects and the stories they tell bring me back to a different time when it makes me move into the mindset of a designer or inventor who thought with 1920 references. Old glass bottles, iconography, out-of-date sewing machines, their shapes and how they work stimulate me to see the world with fresh perceptions.” Salamon’s choice of vintage is the well-designed and well-made detritus that was once revered. For him, these objects have an edge that connects the past with the present and expands the artist’s range of perceiving the world around him. For Salamon this is what the art process is all about.
Knowing his voracious appetite for finding ways to understand people, ideas, and the essence of art, it is natural that Salamon also has successfully taken up filmmaking. He works with significant artists and art critics to produce 15 minute films that give an audience an intimate look at the nature of an artist and the art produced. At the moment, Salamon has created about 10 short films of Los Angeles artists under the theme of “Looking for Genius.” These include Alex Schaefer, Matt Gleason, Don Bachardy and others. Salamon’s dream is for each artist to recommend another artist as he forges links that connect artist to artist in places beyond the known, finding a hidden genius, who creates really great works of art.
Over the years, Salamon has had many exhibitions and his work is sought by fine collectors. His art is largely shown in California and New York.
-Roberta Carasso, PhD
born 1963 Los Angeles, CA
Portrait, Figural, Still Life
Art Institute of Southern California
Cal State Fullerton
Orange Coast College
2003, Tyler Stallings, Orange County Tastemakers, Square Blue Gallery, 70 pages.
2013, Roberta Carasso, PhD, Objectified, Eye Kande Corp Publishing, 22 pages.
2015, Michael Clawson, writer; Elizabeth L. Delaney, writer; Deborah Fritz, gallery owner, The Art of the Object, Eye Kande Corp Publishing, 24 pages.
2017, John Seed, Common Objects-uncommon People, Eye Kande Corp Publishing, 78 pages.
2018, Works on Paper (Limited Edition Publication), Eye Kande Corp Publishing, 45 pages.
Exhibition Record (Museums, Institutions and Awards):|
2018, Hilbert Museum of California Art at Chapman University, Orange, CA
2018, Laguna Art Museum, Laguna Beach, CA
2017, Hilbert Museum of California Art at Chapman University, Orange, CA- Solo exhibition
2017, California Heritage Museum, Santa Monica, CA- Solo exhibition
2017, Laguna Art Museum, Laguna Beach, CA
2016, California Heritage Museum, Santa Monica, CA
2016, Pasadena Museum of California Art (PMCA), Pasadena, CA
2015, Bakersfield Museum of Art (BMOA), Bakersfield, CA- Solo Exhibition
2015, Laguna Art Museum, Laguna Beach, CA
2014, Bakersfield Museum of Art (BMOA), Bakersfield, CA
2014, Orange County Museum of Art (OCMA), Newport Beach, CA
2013, Museum of Art & History (MOAH), Lancaster, CA
Exhibition Record (Galleries and Art Shows):|
2019, Coastline College Gallery, Newport Beach, CA
2019, UC Riverside Sweeney Gallery, Riverside, CA
2018 , FOASouth, Laguna Beach, CA- Solo Exhibition
2018, Golden West College Art Gallery, Huntington Beach, CA
2018, West LA College, Culver City, CA
2017, Arcadia Contemporary, Culver City, CA
2017, Sue Greenwood Fine Art, Laguna Beach, CA
2017, Orange County Center of Contemporary Art, Santa Ana, CA
2016, Giacobbe-Fritz Fine Art, Santa Fe, NM- Solo Exhibition
2016 , Launch Gallery, Los Angeles, CA- Solo Exhibition
2015, Bakersfield Museum of Art (BMOA), Bakersfield, CA- Solo Exhibition
2015, Giacobbe-Fritz Fine Art, Santa Fe, NM- Solo Exhibition
2015, Jamie Brooks Fine Art, Newport Beach, CA
2015, royale projects: contemporary art, Palm Desert, CA
2014, Brett Rubbico Gallery, Newport Beach, CA
2014, Coagula Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
2013, Brett Rubbico Gallery, Newport Beach, CA- Solo Exhibition
2013, USC Hillel Center Art Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
2013, Orange Coast College, Frank M. Doyle Arts Pavilion, Costa Mesa, CA
2012, Green Hill Invitational, Yorktown, NY
2011, Terrell Moore Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
2011, The Muckenthaler Cultural Center, Fullerton, CA
2010, JoAnne Artman Gallery, Laguna Beach, CA- Solo Exhibition
2010, Guggenheim Gallery at Chapman University, Orange, CA
2010, LA Art Show, LA Convention Center, Los Angeles, CA
2008, CSUF Grand Central Art Center, Santa Ana, CA- Solo Exhibition
2008, Whitney Gallery, Laguna Beach, CA- Solo Exhibition
2004, Peter Blake Gallery, Newport Beach, CA- Solo Exhibition
2004, Millard Sheets Gallery, “Love:Whimsy & Wonder”, Pomona, CA
2003, Square Blue Gallery,, Newport Beach, CA- Solo Exhibition
Laguna Art Museum, Laguna Beach, CA
The Hilbert Museum of California Art at Chapman University, Orange, CA.
Orange County Museum of Art, Santa Ana, CA
Bakersfield Art Museum, Bakersfield, CA
Museum of Art & History, Lancaster, CA
Magazine and Media References|
2019, LocalArts, Kitsch-In-Sync: Art and Its Opposite
2018, OC Weekly, Best of Orange County 2018
2018, OC Weekly, There’s Nothing Fishy About Coastline Art Gallery’s ‘Fish Out of Water’
2018, LA Weekly, Two Artists Turn Their Friendly Rivalry Into a Competitive Portraiture Series
2017, OC Weekly, Bradford J. Salamon’s Paintings Turn Cultural Detritus Into Destination Art
2017, ArtScene, Oct./Nov
2017, Huffington Post, Rembrandt, Typewriters and Cheeseburgers
2017, LA Times Daily Pilot, Incarceration
2017, artandcakela.com, In the Land of Sunshine
2017, OC Register, Exhibit Explores Life Behind Bars
2016, ArtScene, In the Land of Sunshine
2016, OC Weekly, Future Recollections
2016, VoyageLA Magazine, L.A’s Most Inspiring Stories
2016, OC Weekly, Not Exactly Fan Art
2016, Huffington Post, Bradford J. Salamon: Visages II at Launch LA
2016, OC Weekly, 'Obversations' at Long Beach City College Has Art Pieces Talking“Editors Choice”, 2016, Southwest Art Magazine, March 2016
2015, American Art Collector, Function and Design
2015, Southwest Art Magazine, June 2015
2014, American Art Collector, Unlikely Portraits
2014, ArtScene, UNDER the Influence
2014, LA Times, Big weekend on tap for art, and that’s just the beginning
2014, art ltd., Objectified at the Museum of Art & History
2013 Live Magazine, Artist and the Gentle Art of Perception
Roberta Carasso, “2010:The art year in review”, The Orange County Register, 12/27/2010
Liz Goldner , “Recommended”, ArtScene 05/2010
2010, Coast Magazine, Roberta Carasso, The Body and Soul of Art
2010, Laguna News Post, For Salamon, ‘every picture tells a story’
2010, Coast Report 04/27/2010
2010, Laguna Beach Independent, It’s Laguna; Art Happens
2009, ArtScene, My Father’s Party is Busted!
2009, Coast Magazine, My Father’s Party is Busted!
BRADFORD J. SALAMON: PAINT WHAT YOU KNOW, HOW YOU KNOW IT
By Peter Frank
Artists, traditionally, are known by their style(s). The manner in which an artist works, regarded effectively as a plethora of earmarks and automatic decisions, supposedly supports the artist’s “message” – although often enough by now, the manner is the message. In contemporary artistic practice, style and substance have not only converged, they have become contiguous. An artist like Bradford Salamon, however, resists – and certainly subverts – this notion of stylistic “branding.” Salamon utilizes his mastery of several approaches to representational painting, however closely those approaches might be related, to add depth and nuance to his images. But in exercising multiple manners – different strokes, you might say, for different folks – Salamon submits his skills to the task of interpretation, favoring the portrayal of his subjects, human and otherwise, over the assertion of his own artistic identity. Salamon does maintain an identity in this way, but it is an identity based on looking and feeling rather than deducing, oriented towards conveying his responses to things, not primarily on characteristics of artistic practice. In other words, in painting what he sees, Salamon paints according – that is, in direct response -- to what he sees.
This is hardly to suggest that Salamon “has no style,” nor even that no consistent sensibility underlies his painting. Salamon’s touch, his feel for the application of paint, invariably betrays him. Whatever he is painting, and however he is painting it, Salamon renders his subjects with a rich brush and relatively muted palette. One can depend on a Salamon canvas to seem rich and yeasty, so effulgent and yet so matter of fact in its painterliness that it almost makes the mouth water. There is also a characteristic consistency to the way Salamon pictures his subjects, concentrating on single figures or objects (which in the more complex pictures serve as visual anchors) and molding them with great care. They seem not simply depicted but described. Further, Salamon’s subject matter is almost invariably mundane – and almost invariably dramatized by his treatment so that its most emotional elements emerge. Portraits, even when full-faced and flattened to a monochrome surface, capture the vivacity of the sitter, the essence of his or her appearance; objects, rendered larger than life, bloom with intimacy and nostalgia; indoor and outdoor spaces remain picturesque and inviting.
Meanwhile, each kind of subject matter is subjected to a markedly different handling, the focus of Salamon’s multi-stylistic virtuosity. Those spaces, normally populated with individuals, families, or other affinity groups paused while enacting some sort of (inter)personal drama, are painted with a localized (if still muted) palette and an oddly direct, flat-footed, almost naïf manner that recalls postwar New York School figurative painters such as Fairfield Porter and Jane Freilicher, impressionist intimists who responded equally to natural light and the pathos of ordinary human life. Like theirs, Salamon’s naturalism relies as much on abstraction as it does on realism, yoking an energetic brushstroke to the things the eye sees.
Even as they pull us further into the house – into the kitchen, into the bathroom, into the tool closet, into the toy closet – Salamon’s “still lifes” take on a luminescence that his broader domestic scenes do not feature. It is a glow that seems almost to be the result of backlighting – or, perhaps more to the point, of the perceptual backlighting that memory lends to objects. These are emphatically unextraordinary things, but many are vintage and all seem touched by use. They’re not cracked and marred so much as smoothed and clouded, inflected with a post-modern sabe no wabe that regards nostalgia as sensate to the point of palpable. Carefully drawing them in paint, Salamon catalogs his devices with an eye to detail: edges, labels, the particular translucence of a kind of glass become conditions in themselves, as immaterial as tastes and odors, as substantive as the pigments used to paint them.
On one level, this is how Salamon approaches the human visage as well. But, sensitive as he may be to appearances, he is too much a humanist to preoccupy himself with superficial looks. In his portraits Salamon finds prominent factors in the sitter’s face to emphasize, not through caricature but through position and illumination. Even the most diffuse rendition of a face becomes a map of a unique terrain, notably distinct from anyone else’s. The “inner soul” great portrait painters are famed for finding, Salamon finds in the the particulars of a person’s features: he not only realizes, but demonstrates, that the soul is in the details. For the majority of his portraits, facial and full-figure, Salamon employs his most extravagantly painterly approach. Paint seems to rain down the canvas, and these human beings seem to emerge from the cascade, almost one with the froth. It is clear that Salamon’s touchstone here is Rembrandt; but his portraiture, constituting some of his understandably best known work, reflects on the entire history of portrait painting, from Velazquez to Hockney.
Bradford Salamon’s work demonstrates that the “real world” continues to present itself as a provocative subject. Indeed, it demonstrates how the observed world stays eternally fresh as an artistic concern. The artists who rely on it as a subject – or, more accurately, limitless source of subject – do so not because it is familiar but because it provides endless variation on what we think of as familiar, and challenges them to sample that variation. The domestic environment, brimming with objects and people, prompts the serious artist to find visual experience and contextual drama in it. And the serious artist rises to the occasion. Salamon rises to this occasion through a canny admixture of openness and calculation, a knowing manipulation of his natural gifts tempered by his natural response to his subjects. Just as Salamon’s embrace of painting is sensual and spiritual at once, his embrace of his subject matter is both spiritual and corporeal. His regard for the world is Whitmanesque in its breadth and its constant joy, and he subjects his considerable artistic skills to the vastness and diversity of that regard. Salamon employs several styles not simply because his subject matter requires it, but because his heart requires it.
Los Angeles, May 2018
I paint what I feel. An emotional connection to a person, object or narrative scene is what I’m after. I’m trying to capture a span of time from my life and preserve it somehow.