Photo Credit: Michael Avedon
When David Salle’s layered and psychologically complex paintings gained prominence during the early 1980s, his work was embraced by critics steeped in postmodernist theory given its appropriative tendencies and evocative blend of high and low imagery. He famously created multipaneled, surrealist canvases in which the familiar was made uncanny through disjunctive combinations of found imagery and dramatic lighting effects. Over a career of some forty years, Salle expanded beyond his painting practice to also work in costume and set design for dance theater, direct a feature film, publish a book of critical writings on art, and exhibit the photographs that he had always produced as provocative source material for his canvases.
Citing cinematic influences on his thinking from mid- 1970s on -Salle was an astute student of filmmakers such as Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Preston Sturges-he deployed filmic strategies in his paintings. Devices such montage, splicing, and panning were translated by the artist onto canvas. It is, therefore, not a leap to understand Salle’s decision to amalgamate elements of his paintings into an animated video for his first NFT. His recent, celebrated Tree of Life series(2020-21) servers as a departure point for its imagery with the paintings’ cartoon narrative illustrating the fall from grace, Western culture’s origin myth. But the animation also brings from earlier paintings–ghosts appearing and disappearing in the digital ether to memorable effect.