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David Salle

June 10, 2022 – July 15, 2022
Artist David Salle always finds his way back to the fundamental building blocks of painting: line, shape, color, texture, and most importantly, composition. An imagist at heart, Salle has spent much of his career exploring how images can be constructed from those basic elements. His work demonstrates the essential, even inescapable reciprocity of image and pure painting. In his first exhibition with Gladstone, Salle presents a new series of paintings that each tell their own story through a pictorial language merged with the materiality – the facticity – of paint.

In the current body of work, Salle revisits his past to tell new stories. For this exhibition, the artist has repurposed previous works by enlarging, cropping, re-printing, and then painting over existing images to create brand new ones. This amalgamation of past, present, and future compounds the narrative potential of his figures, producing a complex yet legible mode of storytelling. Male and female figures, some nude and others clothed, a few with heads and many without, bisect the picture plane. Floating in space like flying maquettes, the bodies are tangled and overlaid by various motifs that Salle regularly employs in his work such as trees or ladders, or simple geometric forms. Indeed, the depiction of simplified forms as stand-ins for the human body, as 'bodies-in-the-making' is a leitmotif of these works. These forms take on various identities - sometimes a torso, other times a mattress, or a box, or a dented hourglass; the work seems to say, 'Look at what we are made of.'

As an artist who has made extensive use of photography, Salle’s work highlights the importance of perspective and superimposition, as well as strong contrasts of light and shadow to create dynamic relationships between figures that float, fly, and ooze throughout the picture. Built-up in stages, the works combine seemingly unrelated images in diverse and disjunctive representational styles. Salle's images may seem unrelated at first glance, but in fact, exist in carefully calibrated image harmonies. Neither meaningless nor random, the relationships between images are abstract, as in music; the image clusters make precise chords of associations and resonances. As in all art, the how is as important as the what. Some figures seem embedded in passages of swirling paint; others are painted in slashing black outlines, while still others are achieved with delicate brushstrokes of yellow-ochre or Venetian red. In some of the works, Salle's color is naturalistic; in others decidedly not. In one piece, a detached red nose is suspended against an oozing pink background while an outstretched hand is painted in blue, while faces and mannequins weave and twist in and out of the scene. Painted atop magazine covers and ads, the works pile up, each one bolder than the next. One element leads to another, which leads to another, and on and on, ending in a state of expectant animation.