New York, 20 East 79th Street
David Salle: Paintings 1985 – 1995, an exhibition of historic paintings highlighting a prolific and experimental period of Salle’s career. With a selection from some of his most significant bodies of work.
A celebrated master of postmodern painting, David Salle is known for his deconstruction of images through his use of photography, collage, and his uncanny compositional instinct. With the return of painting in the 1980s simultaneous to the rise of the “Pictures Generation”, Salle became a bridge between these two techniques and ideologies, but also extending, in his own way, the contentious legacies of Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art.
Salle describes his early education in art as “taking place when the idea of a work having autonomy was still viable. The idea was to make something, which, instead of pointing to an experience, is the experience” (David Salle, “At the Edges. An Interview by Frederic Tuten,” Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 1999, p. 16). One such work of art is Salle’s 1990 painting Mingus in Mexico. In reference to Charles Mingus, the American jazz musician who passed away in Mexico in 1979, the painting embodies an improvisation and intensity, which both ignites and neutralizes meaning. Salle’s empty pink speech bubble denies the viewer of any narrative explanation, however provides a conglomerate of visual cues, which create endless points of entry for understanding the rhythm, gesture, and depth within the painting.
Salle’s Fooling With Your Hair from 1985 creates a different conversation among seemingly disparate imagery. Split horizontally, the canvas shows two friezes, the top a colorful assembly of Giacometti sculptures and mid-century light fixtures, the lower is comprised of three black and white paintings of a woman based on Salle’s own photographs. The model is seen lying on a table, in extreme perspective, in poses taken seconds apart, implying movement, a kind of performance. Her heavily shadowed body is both sexualized and not, objectified and distanced. Salle’s use of provocative imagery overlapped with design and fine art sculptures by a modern master perhaps asks the viewer to question the connections that might lie amongst the two.