I love the way the artist David Salle makes pictures but also how he writes. This is excerpted from an article in the New York Review of Books about a large show of paintings by Laura Owens, but what I liked and related to were the parts that seem to directly pertain to my art works.
“For decades, and especially in the mid-twentieth century, a persuasive reading of modern painting revolved around the idea of the gestalt—the way every element in a painting coalesced into one totality, one essence that blotted out ambiguity. A painting isn’t a thing about another thing—it just is. This gestalt theory of painting was especially alluring during abstraction’s dominance; it put a brake on the drive for narrative, and helped to establish painting’s autonomy from literalist interpretations. But a funny thing happened to the gestalt: life intruded. What if the whole is not more than the sum of its various parts, but more like a shopping list? What if all the various elements used to make a painting are just left out on the floor like pieces from a puzzle that no one bothered to finish? In a recent New Yorker profile, Owens thoughtfully implies that the time for gestalts is over, that collage—i.e., something made out of parts or layers—is simply a feature of the life we all lead. Indeed, a big part of our culture is involved with putting things together, with little distinction made between the invented and the found, and even less between the past and the present. The fragmentary, the deconstructed, even the deliberately mismatched—that is our reality. We are all collage artists now. As someone who holds more or less the same view I can hardly fault Owens for believing this, but it seems to me that her paintings are very much gestalts anyway, though perhaps of a new kind, something closer in their effect to imagist poetry, and it’s their sometimes surprising gestaltness that holds our attention. Owens has interesting ideas, but it is her ability to give them form, often in unexpected ways sourced from unlikely corners of the visual world, that makes her art exciting. Owens’s paintings are squarely in the middle of a postmodern aesthetic that’s been gaining momentum for the last ten or fifteen years. It is not the world of Luc Tuymans via Gerhard Richter, in which the painting’s photographic source is like a radioactive isotope that you could never touch but that, in its absence, is what really matters. The new attitude is not much interested in photography at all. It wants to rough an image up, put it through a digital sieve, and decorate the hell out of it…”