David Salle (born 1952) is an American painter who helped define the post-modern sensibility by combining figuration with an extremely varied pictorial language. Major exhibitions of his work have taken place at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, Castello di Rivoli (Torino, Italy), and the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. In March 2009 a group of fifteen paintings were shown at the Kestnergesellschaft Museum in Hannover, Germany. That same year Salle‘s work was also featured in an exhibition titled The Pictures Generation curated by Douglas Eklund at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, in which his work was shown amongst a number of his contemporaries including Richard Prince, Sherrie Levine, Cindy Sherman, Nancy Dwyer, Robert Longo, Thomas Lawson, Charles Clough and Michael Zwack
Salle was born in Norman, Oklahoma. He earned a BFA and MFA from the California Institute of the Arts, where he studied with John Baldessari. Salle’s work first came to public attention in New York in the early 1980s.
His paintings comprise what appear to be randomly juxtaposed images, or images painted on top of each other with deliberately ham-fisted paint handling. At a 2005 lecture, Salle stated:
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.
Salle also turned his hand to set and costume design, and to directing mainstream cinema. In 1986 Salle received a Guggenheim Fellowship for theater design, and in 1995 he directed the feature film, Search and Destroy, starring Griffin Dunne and Christopher Walken. He is a long time collaborator with the choreographer Karole Armitage as he designs sets and costumes for many of her ballets.
Salle currently lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.