artnet Asks: David Salle

What do you get when you combine magazines, pornography, and comic books?

David Salle, Smoke Kools (2014) Oil and acrylic with silkscreen and digital print on canvas and linen 67 x 92 x 1.5 in. Photo: courtesy of the artist and Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac.

Painter, printmaker, and photographer David Salle is best known for his figurative works, created by painting overlapped images sourced from magazines, pornography, comic books, and advertisements. Salle studied under celebrated montage artist John Baldessari at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, and, once he moved to New York, worked for several artists and photographed for a publishing house specializing in pornography. His early works show evidence of the influences of these experiences; many of his early pieces were erotic arrangements of nudes collaged with images of everyday objects. Salle’s work came to public attention in New York in the 1980s. Since then, he has continued his visual art practice, and also moved into directing mainstream films and set and costume design, receiving the Guggenheim Fellowship for theater design in 1995. His artworks can be found in the permanent collections of museums internationally, including at the Museum of Modern Art and the Tate Modern.

When did you know you wanted to be an artist?

David Salle, Crabhead (1993) Oil, acrylic & graphite on canvas 48 x 36 in. Photo: courtesy of the artist and Tony Shafrazi Gallery.

David Salle, Crabhead (1993)
Oil, acrylic, and graphite on canvas, 48 x 36 in.
Photo courtesy of the artist and Tony Shafrazi Gallery.

What inspires you?
Swiss cheese—you can see through it.

If you could own any work of modern or contemporary art, what would it be?
The original manuscript of To the Lighthouse.

David Salle, Lemon Pie  (2007) oil on linen 57 x 39 in.  Photo: courtesy of the artist and Baldwin Gallery.

David Salle, Lemon Pie (2007)
Oil on linen, 57 x 39 in.
Photo courtesy of the artist and Baldwin Gallery.


What are you working on at the moment?
A documentary about “wilding.”

When not making art, what do you like to do? 
Watch an inch-worm move across the kitchen table.

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