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«I like to think of the work as totally promiscuous

and omnivorous.” David Salle, 1981

David Salle (1952)

Born on November 28, 1952 in Norman, Oklahoma, David Salle was the only child of Russian-Jewish parents. He studied at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, where John Baldessari was one of his teachers.

In 1975 he graduated with a Master of Fine Arts degree, and then moved to New York. His first show was in a loft of Larry Gagosian and Annina Nosei on West Broadway, in New York, in 1979. Bischofberger, who bought his first paintings from the artist in early 1979, began showing him in 1980. Glossy magazines are a main source for Salle’s heavily layered work, while his theme is the simultaneity of visual sources in a media-oriented society. He is regarded as a poster child for the Pictures Generation movement, which was driven by its exaggerated consumption of images to reinvent painting. In 1981, New York art critic Thomas Lawson, who euphorically championed Salle, called his work the cultural center of the epoch. Salle’s paintings are smooth and decorative, on one hand, but disturbing, on the other. His sources are fashion magazines, cartoons, comics, paperback covers, movies, television programs. Pornographic and art historical motifs are turned into floating juxtapositions. His formalized parallel paintings recall Francis Picabia, Sigmar Polke, James Rosenquist, and Andy Warhol. In 1981 Lawson called Salle’s paintings «the last exit for the radical artist.»

At that point in time, Salle, Schnabel, and Clemente were involved in an extremely productive dialogue. In 1982 Salle’s work was shown at the Venice Biennial, the documenta 7, and the Zeitgeist-exhibition in Berlin. His visual vocabulary encompasses combinations of overpainting, collage, grids, and printed or handwritten words, while his dramatic paintings explore a relationship to set design. In 1986 Salle received a Guggenheim Fellowship for theater design and spent several years designing sets and costumes for the ballet by choreographer Karole Armitage, his life partner of many years. In 1995 he collaborated with Martin Scorsese on the direction of the film Search and Destroy, starring Dennis Hopper and Christopher Walken, which is highly regarded among cineastes.

David Salle lives in Brooklyn, New York.


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