We’ve got one question: DAVID SALLE

In David Salle’s solo museum show at the Dallas Contemporary, Salle owns his art world persona. His works playfully lure in the viewer only to smoothly transition into a seriousness that could only come from years of knowing the ropes (quite literally, in two paintings he has attached a velvet rope).  The paintings are easy to enjoy and showcase Salle’s ability to carve out figures with subtle washes and delicate line while excavating Painting’s history. The images in the work are perfectly timed and slyly hilarious. – Arthur Peña, Dallas Contributor

There is a jolt in this show provided by the addition of ceramic pieces. The ceramics are awkward and surprisingly exude their individualism. They are gathered in small units and stake a stronghold within the image soaked space.  They are causal and lumpy with some suggesting that just a few more globs here or there and Salle could have pushed these masses of anthropomorphic sludge into strong bodied figures. It’s not clear if he stopped intentionally in the midst of pushing these together or if he was having so much fun he had to get on to the next one. However, the ceramics are much more effective when they are shoved onto the surfaces of his beloved paintings. To Salle, one vessel resting on another.

What have you learned about what makes a successful painting?*

DAVID SALLE: One should never assume one knows the answer to that question. We continually learn what makes a successful painting. Alex Katz once said “A good painting has to do twelve things at once. One of those things is to make a room look better.” It’s true. In a way a painting should make a room look better. I also heard Jasper Johns say to another painter, who will remain unnamed, “You know the first job of a painting is to improve the wall that it’s on.” So there’s that and it can’t be discounted. You could say that no painting has ever been successful that didn’t serve some decorative function.  Of course there is a concept. I think one cannot ignore a certain power.

RICHARD PHILLIPS: When we were walking through the museum today you picked up on an extraordinary painting, you were just pulled right in, and there was nothing you could do about it. All of the critical faculties, all of the justifications and all of the ways you would attempt to explain it to yourself doesn’t matter.

SALLE: There was one painting that you could see from 200ft away.

PHILLIPS: It wasn’t like we had to talk about it; we just knew, ‘There it is.’ That brings up a great point about how painting can function when it’s operating in its own system and because it is a language in of itself all that we try to apply to it is undone by the pure experience of seeing a painting.

SALLE: We can read what people wrote about certain paintings in the 19th century, about how they were offenses to God and they just didn’t conform to certain ideological notions but they are still good to look at. Painting is one of those cultural artifacts which is put to a certain use at a given time and that use changes, and all that that stuff falls away, theory, criticism, and its left on its own.

*(This question was asked after artist Richard Phillips was in discussion with Salle at the Dallas Contemporary)


Debris runs through August 23 at the Dallas Contemporary. David Salle’s show New Paintings recently closed at Skarstedt Chelsea.

Arthur Peña is a painter and director of Dallas based music label and roving venue, Vice Palace. His solo show the wants and needs of a fearful life opens this fall at the Dallas Latino Cultural Center.

All photos courtesy of the Dallas Contemporary. 


Recent posts

Thursday, December 22, 2022 - 18:17
Tuesday, August 3, 2021 - 15:19
Friday, June 26, 2020 - 13:03
Tuesday, March 31, 2020 - 14:02
Tuesday, March 10, 2020 - 14:55