Sebastian Spreng is a self-taught artist (painter, illustrator, stage designer) and music journalist, related from his mother side to writer Eduardo Gudiño Kieffer (1935–2002), also a native of Esperanza, the first formally organized of the agricultural colonies in Argentina, formed by 200 families of immigrants from Switzerland, Germany, France and Luxembourg who arrived in 1856.
He spent his childhood in Esperanza and in the Argentinian countryside (the Pampas) and in the Atlantic Coast in Mar del Plata moving to Buenos Aires in 1973. At age 17 his works were exhibited in Buenos Aires in a group exhibit Artists from Esperanza. The next year he had his first solo exhibit at Martina Cespedes Gallery in the San Telmo district of the Argentinean capital. The show was sold out on opening night and the gallery held his work exclusively for the next seven years.
In 1978 he was the stage-designer for a theater production of Jean Cocteau’s L’aigle à deux têtes and worked also as illustrator and designer.
During the 1980s, he settled in Miami (Florida) – where he still lives and works – and has been a vital presence in the Florida art scene ever since. Since moving to Florida he had solo and group exhibitions in Boston, Seattle, Atlanta, Toronto, Caracas, Düsseldorf, Essen, Munich, Osaka, Tokyo, Panama, Italy, Buenos Aires, Sarasota, Key West, Santa Fe, New Mexico and Miami.
His works were included in the University of Miami Lowe Art Museum in the Paradise Lost exhibition, in the Miami-Dade Public Library System and in the show Latin-American Artists from Florida in the Palazzo Mediceo (Medici), Seravezza, Tuscany, Italy in 2002.
His awards include the Hortt Competition at the Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale and the 1995 Personal Achievement Award from the Muscular Dystrophy Association for the State of Florida.
In 1994, he was commissioned by Metro-Dade Art In Public Places to create a permanent exhibition at the Miami-Dade Government Center. The series Nonet for the Long Journey, is a memorial tribute to the American with Disabilities Trailblazers. In 1998 (and 2004), Christie’s New York auctioned his works among other Latin American Masters and his name was included in the book “Leonard’s Price Index Latin American Art at Auction” by Susan Theran.
In 2009 his work Daphne was selected for the book “Speak for the Trees” along 70 other artists including David Hockney, Christo, April Gornik, Yoko Ono, Julie Heffernan, Robert Longo, Mark Ryden, the Starn Brothers, etc.
In 2012, he was selected as one of the “100 Latinos of Miami”, along other personalities and as 2013 Visual Artist of the 11th Edition of the Music@Menlo Chamber Music Festival.
For his contributions and merits in the South Florida art scene, he was awarded with the Dr. Sanford L. and Beatrice Ziff Outstanding Arts by Classical South Florida of 2015.
Music is usually present in his work and whole series were based on musical structures titled: Liederkreis Opus I and II, Ring Landscapes on Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen, Sinfonietta, Impromptus, Chamber Music and Reverberations. As a result, many were chosen as cover illustrations for the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra Playbills, along with the New World Symphony 1995-96 Season Program Book, the Florida Grand Opera 1998-99 Season Program and Poster and as CD covers in recordings of, among others, composer Henryk Gorecki, Ildebrando Pizzetti and the Grammy Award Da Pacem with works by Arvo Pärt
Since 1988 Spreng writes about Classical music for magazines, newspapers and his blog Miami Clasica. His career writing about music began as foreign correspondent for Clásica Magazine, Argentina. He is a member of the Music Critics Association of North America and as music journalist he interviewed, among others personalities in that field, composer Luciano Berio, conductors Donald Runnicles, Nicholas McGegan, James Judd, Pablo Heras-Casado and Michael Tilson Thomas; director Harold Prince, singers Dawn Upshaw, Montserrat Caballé, Renata Scotto, Thomas Hampson, Barbara Hendricks, Evelyn Lear, Thomas Stewart (bass-baritone), Anne Sofie von Otter, Luca Pisaroni, Christine Brewer, Bernarda Fink and Deborah Voigt; pianist Evgeny Kissin, Javier Perianes; cellists David Finckel, Sol Gabetta and Amit Peled, violinists Joshua Bell, Gil Shaham, Pinchas Zukerman and the Emerson String Quartet.
Lilia Fontana, art critic and director of the Miami Dade College Kendall Campus Art Gallery wrote in the catalog to his exhibition in Coral Gables, 2002:
He is a minimalist at heart, but he combines the feeling of isolation from an Edward Hopper painting with the Color Field technique of a Mark Rothko. The result is a mixture of components creating an original Spreng. He has formed a bridge between the psychological and the physical. In his previous work he partnered a solitary figure within a vast seascape. A single swimmer floating alone in the water, created a sense of isolation, whereas the autonomous swimmer had no boundaries, possibly a romanticized longing by the artist to set his own body free. This figure, though small in its surroundings, seemed to have had domain of its environment – able to float away on a whim devoid of any imparities. Within his newer work, the swimmer is transferred into an arbor, and it is juxtaposed within a panoramic landscape somewhat agoraphobic. Much of the landscapes are inspired from Las Pampas in Argentina, but its aesthetics is exclusively American with European roots. The work references the Romantic landscape. Each piece has a painted line around the composition, creating a self-contained frame within a frame. Spreng creates for the viewer the illusion of looking through a window and witnessing his phantasmic world. They are simple arrangements, where trees become biomorphic forms enclosed in a Rothkoesque background. Layer upon layer of textured passages richly create his surface. His compositions generate stillness and a delicate balance of forms accentuating a harmonious interaction. Spreng’s personal aesthetic and individual style is unmistakable. He has recontextualized Las Pampas into an oniric American formation.
Dr. Carol Damian, director of the Frost Art Museum at the Florida International University, Miami wrote:
Sebastian Spreng’s paintings demonstrate the essence of simplicity, visual abstractions of form and color; however, upon close examination it is quite evident that technically they are anything but simple. As Sebastian Spreng searches for the means to create haunting accolades to the memory of time and place, his paintings have become more luminous. On the brink of total abstraction, they are saturated with a pervasive ambience that glows with mystery. They allow the viewer moments of introspection and a glimpse into the past.
Art critic Ricardo Pau-Llosa wrote in 1991:
Among the many artists who live in south Florida few have contemplated its environment with passion and freshness of Sebastian Spreng, a painter born in Buenos Aires in 1956. Spreng came to Miami with an impressive list of triumphs but it was not until he reached Florida that he found the central theme of his work: man’s presence between the faces of the planet-land and sea…. Spreng articulates the paradox of human Being-although man alone is agent and consciousness, he is but one of life’s beings. All landscape seeks its destiny in reflection, seeks to become the indispensable verb in an idea or an attitude towards life. In the paintings of Spreng the chimera of landfall which we call Florida has accomplished a part of his destiny.
Art critic Janet Batet wrote in reference to his Liederkreis in 2009:
As if the differences between one proposal and the other were not sufficient, Spreng delves into another element that is not found in painting: time. While music occurs throughout time, painting is subjected to a set time, one that is static and frozen on the canvas. It is not for nothing that painting is associated with timelessness and transcendence. Nevertheless, Spreng subverts this limitation by creating in the pictorial space a feeling of cycle or evolution, achieved thanks to the influence of the ever-changing horizon. The exhibition is impregnated by a clear romantic spirit that is dominated by musical borrowings, a predilection for open scenes, and the subjective nature of the images. It compels the viewer to search for elements unnoticed during its first reading; elements lost or distant, or barely suggested by a horizon always acting with unifying purpose, as it represents both the cohesive element and the driver of change.
Art critic Elisa Turner wrote in ARTnews magazine (September 2011 issue) about his Salad Bar exhibition:
“Gazing at the lyrical juxtapositions of imagery in ‘Salad Bar’ recalls the experience of reading a passage of stream-of-consciousness prose….With a sure sense of color and scale, Spreng navigates the gap between the minute and the majestic.”