Case study: 'Rips in the Mirror'

Updated: Apr 20


David Salle is an American painter and his paintings are FUN. I do not mean fun in the sense of dumbing down the work to a level of oversimplification. I mean FUN in the sense of FUN.

Too often is there a prerequisite course that you must take to engage in high art. To the casual eye some masterpieces can seem like the SAT's. Art elitist can stand in awe, reciting technical and conceptual points that they would never arrive at themselves. Salle is different. While his work does contain layers and layers of both technical ability and conceptual theory, Salle presents them in an approachable way. Large canvases covered in iconography jump off the wall. Combined with a concoction of interior compositions combining to make the equivalent of a McDonald's play place to your eye. I imagine someone saying "yeah, I like the one with the big blue and orange rat". Salle is an artists that my dad would like. The art world needs more of that. It has become too predicated on this idea of whoever can make to most challenging statement wins, and that is no FUN. Zero fun, sir.

No lets get back to 'Rips in the Mirror'. This painting comes almost directly in the middle of Salle's long career. At this time it seems that he has mastered an elaborate visual language and worked out the kinks of combining the characters. His early works, while still FUN, have a feel of hesitation when combining symbols. Now it is as if he produces work from a keyboard of hieroglyphs all his own. Challenging himself compositionally. He sets a maze of focal points scattered across multiple canvases and layers. In a way his painting are sort of a maze. At first they tempt you; draw you in. Then they send you whizzing down the rabbit hole a rabbit hole of themes only to spit you out again. Once in an interview, Salle talks about the idea of yo-yo-ing. I just made that word up. He said it much more eloquently of course but i digress. His point was that paintings that have the ability to wow you on a surface level; i.e pretty colors and visual appeal, as well as suck you in conceptually are timeless. The idea that after hours of looking at a painting you could run out of room as far as themes only to snap out of it and say damn thats a good looking painting should be the aim of every work. David Salle paintings are FUN.


Also if you haven't definitely check out his book 'How to See'. It is an extremely informative literary collection of essay by Salle and his peers focused on the etiquette of McDonald's play places.