Last Thursday marked the opening of American painter David Salle’s most recent exhibition, New Paintings, at Skarstedt Chelsea. It's a collection of new works from two highly individualized series: Late Product Paintings and Silver Paintings. The former is a continuation of Salle’s series from the 1990’s, Early Product Paintings, and consists of large, colorful canvases boasting a collage of pop culture iconography that hearkens back to the 1950s and 60s in an almost stream-of-consciousness style of composition. Combined with Silver Paintings, a series of monochromatic, single-subject photo transfers on canvas, the New Paintings show is, according to Salle, a “forced juxtaposition.”
Salle attended CalArts in the early 70s, where he studied with John Baldessari, a major influence and close friend. He was part of the Pictures Generation, a group of artists coming of age towards the end of the Vietnam War and amidst the Watergate scandal, a time of profuse media culture, rich with fodder from movies, television, and popular music. As both a consumer and fabricator of this aesthetic of information, the recapitulation of pop culture imagery was part and parcel to Salle's practice. His work began to take off in the early 1980’s, and he’s been a mainstay ever since.
Of New Paintings, Salle notes that the series are not meant to complement one another, nor was one created with the other in mind; it was coincidence that the two separate collections culminated at once. The colorful pop art imagery of Late Product Paintings is staple Salle, who is known for his liberal use of color. The works hold their own in composition and dynamism, and digress from their predecessors with more vibrant palettes. In only two paintings from the series, Pay Only $39.95 and Faster Healing, is the photographic imagery from Silver Paintings incorporated into the compositions.
The black and white photographs in Silver Paintings were derived from a series that Salle shot in 1992 of the performer, Massimo Audiello. They are shifting perspectives of a shrouded figure that evoke a sense of anonymity and distance from the subject. The backgrounds of these images are unfinished paintings from his Early Product Paintings series. When transferred to canvas, the texture and residue left behind from the analog processes used to create the works lend a painterly quality that allows for the two series to merge in a cohesive manner.
Salle’s formative years as an artist were steeped in photography—one can’t help but wonder when looking at Silver Paintings, if he isn't returning to the place of his beginnings. Salle, however, is quick to note that photography was never his primary interest—and therefore he cannot simply return to it. His take on photography is that of a guided sense: its language of lights and darks, shadows and highlights informs the shades and compositions of his work, affording him the freedom to experiment outside the confines of traditional painting. It is in the varied imagery, and contrast in color, composition, and medium that the works in New Paintings gain their individuality and strength.
David Salle's New Paintings will be on display through June 27th, 2015 at Skarstedt Chelsea. Click here for more information.