Creative partnerships have long developed in parallel to romance, giving rise to some of the more complex and didatic conversations in the Art World. After all, “Art is the creative transformation of the human spirit,” as gallery co-owner Gigi Salomon so eloquently muses. Ranging from varied treatments on similar media, like Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner to the juxtaposition of opposing media, while taking on similar subject matter. Swaying toward conceptual interplay rather than visual, Don Hershman’s retrospective of recent paintings at storied Salomon Arts Gallery in TriBeCA pays homage to his partner, model-photographer, Victor Arimondi.

Living and working primarily in San Francisco, Don and Victor met and instantly connected: they moved in together about a week after meeting one another. Not so unusual in the city best known for the Summer of Love, but the remarkable element was the depth of the connection and the creative genius blossoming within the couple’s spontaneity.

Italian photographer Victor Arimondi was a beloved model who honed his innate talent behind the lens by drawing viewers into his world with a sense of dreamlike transience. From his perspective as an international model, Arimondi delicately captured a sense of bare intimacy behind a lifestyle better known for its extravagance than its soulful characters, many of whom lost their lives to its irresistible ebbs and flows. For Victor, it was simply life as he lived it.

Victor Arimondi Male Nude (Sweden 1973) Archival Print 12” x 18”

Victor and Don met and formed their multifaceted partnership in the mid-80s amidst a swinging, sex-positive culture, brimming with glamor and desire. It was an era of open minds and hearts in the West Coast city’s Tenderloin district, a timeless and slightly notorious community that welcomes misfits and outsiders, giving many LGBT and their allies an outlet for their passions — as well as their pain.

After abruptly losing Arimondi in 2001, just three months after his diagnosis with HIV-Aids, Don Hershman was shattered. He gathered himself and organized his partner’s works into a meaningful archive, and allows his presence to live on by interacting with its subject matter and presenting it in different ways to convey its greater message.

At Salomon Art Gallery, Gigi and Rodrigo Salomon sponsor a retrospective showcase placing emphasis on the couple’s creative exchange.

Don Hershman’s treatment of Still Life, when paired with Victor Arimondi’s, is particularly telling.

Don HershmanTable With Vase & Shadow #7 (Quarantine Series) Acrylic & pencil on wood panel 30”x24"

Victor Arimondi Still Life (San Francisco 1980) Archival Print 9” x 12”

When considering Don Hershman’s spatial surrealism surrounding a vase teetering alarmingly close to a table’s edge, beside Victor Arimondi’s foreboding melange of skulls and the image’s unusual composition, it is clear the two artists shared a sense of deviance and nonconformity. It is possible, even, to take it so far as to say that the pair fit together even more closely as a result of their shared ‘outsiders’ perspective. In the best kinds of love, partners take solace and comfort in attributes often misunderstood by others, drawing them ever-closer as they build a secret world. Matching a similarly calibrated sense of restrained dystopianism in such seemingly common subject matter also creates a feeling of irony in the artworks, inferring a dry humor between the couple.

Don Hershman Epidemiology (Quarantine Series)Acrylic & pencil on wood panel 30” x 24”

Don Hershman’s panel paintings take on a very graphic style in some instances, with stark backdrops and exaggerated form being a commonality behind the painter’s recent body of Quarantine paintings. In an ode to the work of his late partner, he mirrors elements of Victor’s most memorable works — namely the foliage and highly contrasted palette. By painting only a singular bough atop a stack of literature, Hershman also manages to subtly express the solemness of loss, twenty years after his partner’s passing.  

Victor Arimondi Male Nude Archival Print 12”x9”
Atmosphere: UNDER THE INFLUENCE (c) Patrick McMullan

Creativity can be a powerful aphrodisiac, bonding partners to inform one another’s work for a lifetime. For artists and creatives, connecting on this level can breathe life into each other; take artist Ugo Rondinone and art-poet John Giorno - may he also rest in heaven - as another complimentary pair. Ugo famously held an exhibition at Paris museum Palais de Tokyo titled ‘UGO RONDINONE: I ♥ JOHN GIORNO’ (2015-2016). The two share a color palette and some phraseology, however the form of each respective artists’ outputs could not be more different. The two overlap most in Rondinone’s rainbow series, installations that spotlight the LGBT community but carry universal messages; for example, LOVE INVENTS US (1999). Giorno touches on the highlights of the same luscious lifestyle that Victor’s work also captured in his piece WE GAVE A PARTY FOR THE GODS AND THE GODS ALL CAME (2015).

Ugo Rondinone Blue pink green yellow mountain (2019)
Ugo Rondinone LOVE INVENTS US (1999) Neon & Persex

The true artists and arts-minded live and breathe their work. For Salomon Art Gallery co-owners Gigi and Rodrigo Salomon, this mindset creates a “symbiotic energy, twenty-four seven....that mirrors the process of how we live our life together.” The two share a passion that has lasted decades, since the gallery opened its doors.

There is a sense of bondage that occurs between concurrent creation that goes far deeper than the consumerist culture of our present era. Nuances such as the treatment of paint in an Abstract Expressionist canvas, to an angle of a lens or the sharp lines of a shadow, together make stylistic statements that shed insight to the character of each individual. The recognition and discussion of such details with a trusted lover can lead to a proliferation of an artist’s understanding of their own work, and an unmatched sense of acknowledgment by another soul.

Salomon Art Gallery’s ‘Under The Influence’ allows Don Hershman and Victor Arimondi’s love to be immortalized.

Salomon Art Gallery • 83 Leonard Street, FL 4