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David Salle

Author of 'How To See'

Born in 1952 in Norman, Oklahoma, David Salle grew up in Wichita, Kansas. 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 BFA in 1973 and an MFA in 1975, both from CalArts.

After school, Salle moved to New York, where he supported himself by working for artists, including Vito Acconci; teaching art classes; and cooking in restaurants. He also did paste-up in the art department of a soft-core pornography magazine. When the publisher folded, Salle saved a group of stock photographs depicting nudes, sporting events, airplane crashes, and such, which he later used as source material for his paintings.

Salle has mentioned the influence of filmmakers Douglas Sirk, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, and Preston Sturges on his thinking beginning in the mid-1970s. Cinematic devices—from close-ups and zooms to panning, montage, and splicing—have indeed been recognized in his work.

Salle’s work for the stage began in 1981, when he was asked to design the set and costumes for Birth of the Poet, a play by Kathy Acker under the direction of Richard Foreman. He has designed sets and costumes for numerous works by Karole Armitage—an avant-garde choreographer and dancer with whom he lived for seven years—beginning with their 1985 collaboration on The Mollino Room, performed by Mikhail Baryshnikov and the American Ballet Theatre. He also directed the commercial film Search and Destroy(1995), which was produced by Martin Scorsese and features Ethan Hawke, Dennis Hopper, and Christopher Walken.

Solo shows of Salle’s art have been organized by the Museum am Ostwall Dortmund (1986–87), Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia (1986–88), Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam (1999), and Waddington Galleries in London (2003), among others. He has participated in major international expositions including Documenta 7 (1982), Venice Biennale (1982 and 1993), Whitney Biennial (1983, 1985, and 1991), Paris Biennale (1985), and Carnegie International (1985). The artist lives and works in New York City and Sagaponack, New York.