SALVATORE ROMANO: Baroque Minimalism

by Joan Marter

Reproduced by kind permission of Joan Marter


My introduction to the sculpture of Sal Romano came in 1977, when I visited Art Now Gallery in SoHo, and saw his large-scale installation in a black pool. This work, and many subsequent examples, were recognized as kinetic water installations. Some of his moving sculptures were installed in ponds or rivers, but the majority featured elements in wood and plexiglass arranged in a pool of the artist’s devising. As a minimalist Romano intends these chosen materials to convey meaning. Geometric elements in wood and metal reference aspects of the urban milieu. Water, an unusual choice for sculpture,  posited rich associations for the sculptor to explore: it is among the basic elements of all life, and has both spiritual associations and practical purposes. Used for baptisms as a symbol of purification, water is essential to all earthly existence.

In such works as Urban Reflections, moving water and the quiet interplay of light and shadow combine. The installation included thousands of cedar wood chips that were activated by small, submersible motors. A shiny black disc moved freely among the jostling  particles. In this and other water sculptures Romano explored the rhythms, the energy, and the tensions of urban existence.

In addition to the contrast between kinetic and stationary forms, Romano has been interested in the differences between man-made elements and natural phenomena. He manipulates materials and forms to anchor, block, or energize his compositions. Romano sought to provoke reflections on life issues in these evocative water fields. Balancing verticals against horizontals, static elements against floating discs, the installations suggested equilibrium among unequal by equivalent forces.

Romano has been a city dweller for many decades, but in the past decade he worked in the Catskills Mountains. The use of shimmering metals is his response to the radiant sky and brilliant landscape of his country studio. Large drawings in pen and ink are the complement to minimalist forms in three dimensions. These works on paper parallel the use of hard-edged fragments of metal that are combined to make geometric solids. Sal Romano’s drawings allude to the marvels of the natural world, the dynamic interplay of movement/stasis. His art is a poetic realm of dramatic lights and subtle shadows—meant for reflection.