What a lovely palete cleanser this exhibition is! David Salle’s cartoony collage paintings shift and swirl, mixing black-and-white and colour. In this new show, he focuses on repetitive depictions of mops, coffee cups, pork chops and other ephemeral, day-to-day objects. He peppers his canvases with slogans and word marks.
They’re generally repainted elements from 1940s cartoons and ad imagery. Salle himself has said he’s aiming for a kind of “free jazz” effect: a pleasant cacophony, with enough underlying structure to hold the attention.
Just like free jazz, the sheer density of elements can seem sometimes to overwhelm the coherency of the whole: the visual rhythms are skewed and shifting. Salle paints quickly, perhaps in an improvisatory way, as can be seen in the very few brush strokes he requires to form his complex scenes.
Despite that, there’s a lovely sense of stillness, of suspension, in the works as a whole: these coffee cups and pork chops hang in mid air, with no sense of being about to crash back down. There is a double remove from reality in that Salle is representing what are themselves representations: isn’t the purpose of cartoons to boil real life into as few essential, recognisable elements as possible?
The artist was born in Oklahoma, and is grouped with some of his compatriots, including Richard Prince and Cindy Sherman, as part of the Pictures Generation. They’re characterised by their post-Pop criticism of 70s media culture.
But with this exhibition, there’s something else that Salle brings, in a similar way to Sherman’s recent, ultra-campy works: joy!
David Salle: Musicality & Humour is at Skarstedt (London). 5 March - 11 May 2019