David Salle’s Tree of Life Hat Tip (2022) forms part of a series in which the compositions are structured by stylised trees that transect the pictorial space, partially obscuring the imagery behind them. The upper scene features two monochrome figures – the man tipping his hat to a woman who appears inexplicably dismayed by this courtesy – rendered in the style of Peter Arno’s mid-century illustrations for the New Yorker magazine. This mysterious interaction is sharply contrasted with the colourful leaves and root-like tangle of lines in the lower, subterranean level of the canvas.
A recurrent feature of Salle’s artistic practice is the apparent disjunction between a painting’s immediate visual impact and our analysis of its individual elements over time. As the viewer becomes better acquainted with the work, subtle variations in the painting’s formal and emotional tones begin to emerge.
David Salle’s first comprehensive survey in 20 years was recently held at the Brant Foundation in Greenwich, Connecticut.