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David Salle (September 28, 1952 - Present)

David Salle is an American painter and leading contemporary figurative artist born in Norman, Oklahoma. Growing up in Kansas, at the age of eight or nine, he began taking life-drawing classes at the Wichita Art Association. During high school, he attended outside art classes three days a week. In 1970, he began his studies at the newly founded California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, where he worked with John Baldessari. Creating abstract paintings, installations, and video and conceptual pieces, Salle earned a B.F.A. in 1973 and an M.F.A. in 1975, both from CalArts.

Salle’s work first came to public attention in New York in the early 1980s. His paintings comprise what appeared to be randomly juxtaposed images, or images painted on top of each other with deliberately ham-fisted paint handling. His subject matter tended toward the popular, the gratuitous, and the pornographic, and was combined in ways that appeared deliberately incomprehensible. His work was called "cynical", "calculating", and "cold", which could be an accurate description according to the feminist art group known as the “Guerrilla Girls” who accused Salle of incorporating misogynist imagery into his art.

In the next few years he and his contemporaries — termed postmodern — achieved a succès de scandale with their work. Salle even turned his hand to set and costume design, photography, and directing mainstream cinema, however, determines his level of success and fame differently.

“When I came to New York in the 70s, it was common not to expect to be able to live from your art. I had very little idea about galleries or the business side of the art world. It all seemed pretty distant. When people started paying attention to my work, it seemed so unlikely that somehow it wasn't so remarkable. I made my work for a small audience of friends, other artists mostly, and that has not really changed. At the same time, having shows is a way of seeing if the work resonates with anyone else. Having that response, something coming back to you from the way the work is received in the world, can be important for your development as an artist. But you have to take it with healthy skepticism... I still spend most days in my studio, alone, and whatever happens flows from that.” - David Salle