David Salle

Biography of David Salle

Neo-Expressionist and post-modernist painter David Salle has been creating crowded paintings filled with disjointed elements throughout his artistic career, which began in the early 1980s. His complex, large-scale and often erotically charged paintings randomly juxtapose images to create new meanings. David Salle went against the modernist idea that a painting should stay as true to the authentic experience as possible, instead choosing to combine the disparate elements of Pop-art with figuration to create pastiche works.


Along with his contemporaries Julian Schnabel, Eric Fischl, Robert Longo and Jean-Michel Basquiat, David Salle initiated a return to large-scale gestural expressionism and figuration following the minimalism of painting in the 1970s. In a collage-like style, he builds up elements on the canvas, paying little attention to the objects themselves and rather focusing on how the different images interact. Some of his most iconic works gather massively different styles and sources on one canvas and offer multiple readings. 


David Salle was born in 1952 and was taught by John Baldessari at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia where he received both his BFA and MFA. He was part of John Baldessari’s legendary Post-Studio Art class, and claims that meeting the Conceptual master redirected his trajectory as an artist. He moved to New York in the late 1970s, and continues to live and work there to this day. In 1986, David Salle received a Guggenheim Fellowship for theater design and in 1995 directed the film Search and Destroy, which starred Christopher Walken.


Major exhibitions of David Salle’s work have taken place at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. His work is also in the permanent collections of prestigious museums such as the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and Tate Modern in London.

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