Machines in Darkness

This exhibition represents the return of Salvador Calvo (Istán, Málaga, Spain, 1948) to the Spanish artistic scene after a 20 year absence during which time the artist developed his career in the United States.  Salvador Calvo settled in the United States in the early ‘80s, after studying with Francisco Coello and Manual Ayllón, among others, and receiving several awards and showing his work in individual and group shows in Madrid. 

His work makes a positive impression.  The first set of works we see is dominated by dark, strangely-angled architectural spaces, parts of modern cement buildings with narrow openings, winding passages and stairs that lead nowhere … a dense blue atmosphere envelops them, a bluish fog that veils the light of a setting sun.  His excellent compositions in which the structure of the painting is determined by the architectural fragment that is being depicted. 

This leads us to the second set of paintings, where indeterminate artificial forms appear that are somewhat sculptural; evoking some pessimistic, neo-figurative edge to a world without landscape or exit, populated by menacing mechanical forms….  There is a third group of paintings, which appear to represent a passing visit to the archaic world.

It is worth your while to scrutinise Salvador Calvo’s paintings closely.  They contain mixed techniques with an excellent finish of subtle and extremely tight and intricate layers of brushstrokes, or a stamped and dotted effect.  With this special technique the artist has created magnificent drawings – as can be seen by paging through his catalogues – in which, in addition to these unusual machines consisting of thousands of tiny strokes, can be seen texts from manuscripts, signs and semi organic elements.  Other surprises await us in these old catalogues such as sculptures made of metal and wood, combining impeccably carved elements and recycled objects.

Javier Rubio Nombot
Art Critic
El Punto de las Artes, Madrid. 2001


"SALVADOR CALVO: New Paintings" is on view from August 30 through September 19, 2002 at Galería Gala, Chicago. This is a serious art, a significant art. Many of Calvo's earlier paintings reflect the artist's fascination with and need to understand the perceptions and beliefs, the myths of numerous cultures, distant or extinct…

Calvo's use of ambiguous perception is made even more striking by his skill in conceiving plausible, but physically impossible lighting. In this art, light seems a phosphorescent fluid which will-o'-the-wisps in space. Subtle shadowing, meticulous detail, highly refined figuration, almost recognizable configurations, when applied to imaginings, compel the viewer to seek some known model or subject at core. There are no pat answers or hidden codes however. The paintings engage viewer response, not an artist's theories. But each image does reflect a content…

G. Jurek Polanski
Art Critic

ArtScope - Copyright 2001


Real Rhythms

The early works of Salvador Calvo (Istán, Málaga, 1948), reveal an overwhelming desire to know the ultimate reality of things.  Such an attitude, such an interest, leads him to consider art as a science, as an investigative method leading to certainty, a true artistic philosophy, originally and in our own times, an absolutely risky proposition.  Concepts such as these are rooted in Traditional Knowledge or Eternal Philosophy, to which one cannot aspire with merely erudition, but through study, that is at the same time life experiences, a vital plan and the outpouring of ideas.  The ideas must have a rhythm, a reality, like a body, objects, breathing, like the rhythm and elements of Nature. 

Salvador Calvo wants to fuse his art with Art and answer, through his works, to the “why” of such a necessity, of such an existence, of such luminous possibilities in the human soul.  Among the current predominance of artistic considerations, this goal and this attitude are certainly singular and admirable.  All of this would be a fiasco, or fall by the wayside, if the esthetic results were ineffective or vulgar.  But this is not the case.  Salvador Calvo’s drawings are splendid, his compositions are excellent.  He is a painter in masterly control of his sensitive, cultivated and steady hand.  His technical imagination has searched for and found the best visual processes to express and communicate visually his proposals and intellectual, emotional, ideological and vital conclusions as explained above.  The result is a very good show.

Carmen Pallarés
Art Critic
ABC Cultural 8/12/2001


The painter from Istán

The Surprising Colour Geometry of Salvador Calvo
…even though his geometry is not hard-edged – it frequently plays with the roundness of forms between light and shadow.

His work distills a certain dramatic oneiric quality, full of mystery and suggestion, all softened by a bright chromatic palate.  His work is executed between Málaga and Chicago.

Salvador Calvo was born in 1948 in Istán (Málaga), a small town that loves and admires him.  As a result of that respect, the town commissioned a sculpture for the Plaza del Calvario Square.  His professional development included a period in Madrid at Tres en Raya with Manuel Ayllón and at the photography academy of “Photo Centro.”  In 1982 he relocated to Chicago, where his daughters grew up, until 2006 when he returned to Spain, traveling back and forth to the United States.

This versatile artist cultivates painting, sculpture, etching, photography and interior design.  His most recent shows took place at the “Palacio de Congresos” in Madrid, at the Sociedad Económica de Amigos del País (Málaga) and in Chicago. 

His sculptures incorporate diverse materials such as wood, stone and metal; with all of those he creates well-defined objects of great strength, with clean lines even though they come from recycled materials.  He has been attracted to this style by the mechanistic world, as was Fernand Leger, Julio Le Parc or Edgard Negret.  Geometry resonates in the construction of these sculptures that meshes perfectly with his painting.

Suturing Two Bodies
It is probably in his painting that Salvador Calvo’s visual creativity best flows.  His oil paintings contain a prodigious colour repertory – all light and shadow at the same time.  Geometry dominates the composition and gives architectural perspective to the space.  The bluish orange colours with rusty metallic tones give shape to reticular, elliptical, ovoid and spherical objects, finite lines….

The circular movement, rotating and spiraling provide a dramatic spatial element to the themes, through which only a few titles reveal the pathos.  “Healing the Green Scar” (2004) shows four broken curves with a textile air due to the buttonholes and purple stripes alongside.  “Clasps” (2004) repeats red tones, the idea of stitching two separate bodies.  “Shadow” is very suggestive, an acrylic ink on linen, with a strong architectural and spatial feel.  In “Revelation,” an oval form breaks through the composition and appears with renewed light.

Far from these works is “Metamorphosis” (2002), that identifies with his work of the ‘90s, more fascinated by the world of machines.  It is definitely a painting of cosmic vision, hysterical and spatial, in which the dream-like vision is penetrated by geometric forms.

Salvador Calvo is a brilliant painter, who demonstrates more than he reveals.  His work shows great elegance without renouncing the illusory vision of painting.  His name is inscribed in the rich movement of Spanish geometric artists such a Palazuelo, Elena Asíns, Juliár Gil, Carmen Zulueta or Carlos Evangelista.

Julia Sáez-Angulo
Art Critic
Hechos de Hoy 30/8/2007


Salvador Calvo…

…is an artist who does not follow trends or “isms”, and he cannot be categorised into any group or tendency. He is faithful to himself and to his ability to generate illusions. He transmits ideas through symbols that are not of the type that are commonly and traditionally accepted, but they describe situations using synthesis to describe mental states and profound philosophical concepts.

Joan Lluís Montané
Art Critic
Artes Plásticas, Madrid, 2000


A  fragmented  microcosmic  vision…

…pervades the strange landscape of this artist. It is more than a romantic halo of dream and nostalgia… His work is an anthropologic mosaic of history. His universe, constructed from fragments of Western cultural reality, summarises the phylogenetic content of humanity. It interprets the present through the filter of the past and its cultural baggage. The technological revolution, neo-colonialism, the American dream, the global village, the new order or the end of history are all interpreted as shamanic signs…

The Western metropolis from its symbolic values is presented through associations interwoven intellectually among fragments of mythic culture and images of technological precision…

Jana Cazalla
Art Historian, Art Critic
Valencia, Spain 1998


… For contemporary pictorial reality, concept is often more important than visual delight. Calvo’s work seamlessly fuses form and content in unapologetically sensual and beautiful pictures and objects…

… Calvo’s precise and clear renderings open thresholds between past and present, making symbolic transformations possible…

…A master of light and shadow, Calvo examines objects at their edges, constructing a space out of opaque and transparent planes…

… Calvo’s sculptures bring to three-dimensional space the themes and textures of his drawings and paintings in a dialogue of material and virtual forms. His superior craftsmanship contrasts the refined and rustic aspects of wood and metal, adding to his poetic relationship with materials and forms wit and humor…

Simone Osthoff
Modern and Contemporary Art historian and Art Critic


… it's possible that all has been said. It's possible that everything has been painted. But, nevertheless, the artist never stops searching. Art would die if it were not a constant quest. Calvo is one of those artists who searches. More precisely, he looks for himself. He is driven to find himself, and, in order to do so, discovers a need to create.

… each painting is, for this artist, a piece of a mirror in which part of his face is reflected. Calvo balances harmonies of pure colour with the expression of tragedy and mystery. Some of his works are landscapes reduced to rhythmic curves. Previously I mentioned harmony… his paintings are exercises in counterpoint; each band of colour is a beautiful melody that softens or contrasts those around it. There might be a seed of desolation and tragedy in these naked scenes. Perhaps that mysterious breath emerges from the subconscious of the artist without his being aware of it

…waves of colour, skulls, loneliness: these are the visual signs that Calvo uses to offer us a faithful image of his spirit. He strives to find himself with conscious and unconscious elements, as he examines the core of his identity.

José Hierro
Poet, Art Critic
ABC, Madrid, 1973