David Salle exhibition at Lehmann Maupin

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By Juliet Lee / 9th September 2016

Internationally acclaimed American artist, David Salle, opens his solo exhibition of new work at Lehmann Maupin.

David Salle is highly regarded as the leader in the return of figurative painting in the 1980s as well as his ongoing role in the development of postmodern sensibility. His artworks feature complex visual narratives that draw inspiration from art, history, advertising, design and American culture.

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David Salle Lehmann Maupin, Hong Kong September 8 – November 12, 2016 Photo: Kitmin Lee © David Salle, licensed by VAGA, New York. Courtesy of the artist and Lehmann Maupin, Hong Kong.

Gazing upon Salle’s work, one cannot help but feel captivated in intrigue by the painting’s content and composition – a bricolage of disparate images, media and colors brought together forcibly in figurative abstraction.

Not intended to be simply “understood” in a literal manner, the paintings challenge the viewer’s assumptions on how to experience and understand a painting.

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David Salle Lehmann Maupin, Hong Kong September 8 – November 12, 2016 Photo: Kitmin Lee © David Salle, licensed by VAGA, New York. Courtesy of the artist and Lehmann Maupin, Hong Kong.

David Salle incorporates recognizable everyday images in his paintings – a snowman, a waffle, a camera lens, a car – but these images are not intended as a clear-cut commentary on a time period or object, rather an experimentation in color and content. Emphasis is placed on the painting’s visual impact and the reaction invoked in the viewer, rather than the identification of an express meaning or narrative.

Although seemingly jumbled and random at first glance, you come to the realization that each image, each mark and each stroke signifies a deliberate exploratory element that adds a certain tone and style, all which contribute to the overall harmony of each piece.

Playing, Dreaming, 2015-2016 oil, acrylic, crayon and archival digital print on linen 78 x 101.75 inches

DAVID SALLE Playing, Dreaming, 2015 oil, acrylic, crayon, and archival digital print on linen 78 x 101.75 inches (linen) 198.1 x 258.4 cm 79.75 x 103.75 x 2.625 inches (framed) 202.6 x 263.5 x 6.7 cm Photo: John Berens © David Salle, licensed by VAGA, New York. Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, Hong Kong.

In Playing, Dreaming, the painting almost seems to be sectioned off into quarters – the camera lens, the upside-down room, the red bedding, and the polychromatic swirl of vibrant color.

Yet, intentional color and image placement joins these sections and rounds off the painting with a feeling of cohesion and completion: textural play in the broad, blue paint strokes mimics the red-yellow swirl; small icons of relational human subjects juxtapose with an abstract skull motif; and the green background in the rectangular image of the reclining woman matches the color of the bowl of green pea soup.

A wavy line snakes out from the eye of the camera lens – featuring shapes that resemble “musical notes that are set free in another dimension” – and cuts through the painting while at the same time unifies the composition.

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DAVID SALLE Buick-Town, 2016 oil, acrylic, charcoal, and archival digital transfer and print on linen 66 x 48 inches (canvas) 167.6 x 121.9 cm 67.75 x 49.75 inches (framed) 172.1 x 126.4 cm Photo: John Berens © David Salle, licensed by VAGA, New York. Courtesy of the artist and Lehmann Maupin, Hong Kong.

In true postmodernist fashion, Salle seeks to deconstruct any hierarchy between image and meaning to enable a fluid dialogue between all of the arts – performance, literature, music, visual art and media.

A photo-transfer print of a mysterious, hooded figure is featured in Buick-Town and Smoke Kools; the figure in question is Massimo Audiello, an actor/performer who staged improvisational performances at Salle’s studio in the 1990s with his works-in-progress as the backdrop. The reiteration of the hooded figure in his artworks underscores the importance of cinema, photography and performance in the development of Salle’s art.

Painting is inherently performative, according to David Salle; and his artworks highlight the aspects of improvisation and play that are central to performance.

Smoke Kools, 2014-2016 oil and acrylic with silkscreen and digital transfer prints on canvas and linen 67 x 92 inches

DAVID SALLE Smoke Kools, 2014-2016 oil and acrylic with silkscreen and digital and transfer prints on canvas and linen 67 x 92 inches (canvas) 170.2 x 233.7 cm 68.875 x 93.875 inches (framed) 174.9 x 238.4 cm Photo: John Berens © David Salle, licensed by VAGA, New York. Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, Hong Kong.

Never planned in advance, each work is a conglomeration of intuitive experimentation physically performed at particular moments in time; which speaks more about the investigation into the infinite possibilities of painting itself rather than being limited to a singular literal narrative.

In combining abstraction, figuration and language, David Salle’s paintings entrap viewers in visual wonderment: they make a striking visual impact that captures your attention, the assemblage of mesmerizing images fuel your desire to assimilate the pictorial narrative, your focus then returning to the starting point of immediacy. The more you look at it, the more interesting it becomes; giving its viewers an enthralling visual experience.

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David Salle Lehmann Maupin, Hong Kong September 8 – November 12, 2016 Photo: Kitmin Lee © David Salle, licensed by VAGA, New York. Courtesy of the artist and Lehmann Maupin, Hong Kong.

The exhibition is open for viewing from the 8th September to 12th November 2016 at the Lehmann Maupin gallery.

Address: 407 Pedder Building, 12 Pedder Street, Central, Hong Kong.