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JOEL Joel's Blog

Realistic Portraiture. A Visit to the Salmagundi Club


l-r Tanner Ortney
l-r Tanner Ortney "Self-Portrait at 25" 2023 oil, Emily Pastor "She contains multitudes" 2023 oil, Mary Durgunoglu-Brown "Lee Price" 2023 oil

After months preparing for the Handworks show, returning back last week, and immediately getting a cold, I finally felt well enough and relaxed enough to venture out for fun.

My destination: the Salmagundi Club a private arts club on Fifth Avenue and 12th Street near Washington Square Park in Manhattan with art shows that are open to the public. Members of the club, which specializes in promoting traditional art forms, get to socialize, eat, drink, shoot pool on vintage pool tables and exhibit their work. Members of the public can come to free lectures and exhibitions by members and take art classes. (I'm a member of the public, not of the club.)

I've always believed that the quality of art is measured by how well it communicates. Does the piece create an emotional response in the reader, viewer, or listener? This applies to furniture too, by the way. Great design speaks to people. When you sit in a great chair, did you say to yourself, Wow! The main Salmagundi exhibit featured portraits, something that we really don't really see much anymore. In the old days before photography, portraits were the only way of recording an image of someone, but once photography was invented, painted portraits became mostly status symbols. But what blew me away about this exhibit was that these portraits (mostly paintings but some drawings, photography and sculpture) communicated in a way that your typical snapshot doesn't communicate. The exhibition shows very clearly that there is a place for portraiture.

Landon Clay
Landon Clay "Buffalo Jacket" 2023 - oil

I want to especially call your attention to this picture by Landon Clay. It's very evocative to me of the portraits from Rembrandt's time. Sally disagreed - for her it evoked Thomas Eakins style portraiture albeit with a contemporary expression on the subject's face. And I'll grant that too. In either case it's an awesome piece.

Anthony Almeida
Anthony Almeida "Posed for tomorrow" 2023 - photography

I thought this portrait by Anthony Almeida was a painting but it's in fact a photograph. And it's really something. I have no idea technically how much manipulation was needed to get that very narrow pallet of colors, but this is a wonderful expressive portrait.

Kristin Kunc
Kristin Kunc "Two Sisters of Persephone" 2023 - oil

The whole show was like this. There were very very few images that I thought didn't deserve to be there. I should also call out the picture frames. The entire show is a lesson in showing how choosing appropriate framing complements the work.

If you're in New York City, you should drop in. It's free and open 7 days a week. The shows change frequently, and whatever is on exhibit is almost certainly worth your time. I have not seen anything there that I've really thought was a waste of time. I think some shows are stronger than others, but there's always something great.

PS: Also worth your time if you are in New York City: we are hosting two events here at the showroom. First, a free Osmo woodfinishing workshop on Friday, September 29 from 12-3, and on October 13th and 14th, Festool Fest our demo day of Festool tools including the new table saw and other stuff.
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09/13/2023 Paul Starita
tthat club was a private Italian business mans club but you could dine in the restaurant,unless I am mistaken.When I was a carpenter ,I worked fo two days on a renovation of the club
09/13/2023 Pete Chast
Thank you for sharing this. You should be commended for your photographs of the exhibit also. I know how difficult it can be taking shots of my mother's work for exhibits.
09/13/2023 Ian Keck
Thanks for sharing this.
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The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the blog's author and guests and in no way reflect the views of Tools for Working Wood.