Paintings of Time and Shapes, Two Series by David Salle

The Emperor, 2000 Pastoral with Bananas, 1999-2000 Fishing, 1998 Yellow Sail, 2010 Green Raft, 2011 Orange Raft, 2011

I took a brief stop at the North Carolina Museum of Art yesterday. I’m not sure if the painting was a new acquisition by NCMA or if it never stood out to before, but seeing David Salle’s The Emperor (the first image above) was definitely the highlight of my visit. It initially appealed to me for its collage characteristics. In The Emperor, Salle juxtaposes a traditional 18th century scene with solid bold colors and geometric shapes. It feels like a combination of Rococo and Pop Art.

I remember learning about Monet’s “series” paintings, in which he painted the same subject repeatedly in different lighting and weather conditions. Along with The Emperor are Pastoral with Bananas and Fishing: paintings depicting the same scene of the man and woman, but with different moods, juxtaposed objects, and varied levels of complexity and disruption in what is otherwise a light-hearted scene.

The three paintings in the second set depict the same landscape and structure, but again with variations on each. The colors change, but not drastically. And, in contrast to the first series, there is a kind of one-to-one exchange with the different objects. A hat is replaced by a different colored hat, which is then replaced by an upside-down hat. A yellow quilt and a floating arm with a white-trimmed blue sleeve are interchanged with a yellow shirt and a blue and white polka-dotted neckerchief.

While I call the subjects of these paintings “objects,” a more accurate description of my perspective is that I just see them as shapes. And that is why I thought they were incredibly appropriate for Minimo Graph. If I take away all of my recognition of  what these shapes represent (for instance, not seeing a hat, but rather focusing on the object as simply shapes and colors), I especially appreciate the composition: the way the textures and darkness of colors play off of each other, the interruptions of organic lines with sharp geometric corners, and the masterful placement of the objects, as if their weights were literally balanced in the space.

David Salle has an extraordinary body of work, through which you should wander thoroughly. He has been painting for decades so his website provides a unique opportunity to see his progression and changes in style.

>> See more of David Salle’s work at


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