Visitors to the new David Salle exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art will not only see plenty of paintings--they are likely to see plenty in each painting on view.
Forty works, from 1976 to 1986, comprise the "David Salle" retrospective, on view Tuesday through June 14. It is the largest Salle museum show ever assembled.
In addition, museum visitors may glean "a large number of interpretations from each image," said the show's curator, Janet Kardon, in a recent phone interview. Salle, 34, has in the last several years infused his works with a greater "multidimensionality," she noted, using a "multi-layered kind of imagery"--for instance, superimposing a Santa Claus over a sun bather.
Salle's works have also expanded in size, said Kardon, director of the University of Pennsylvania's Institute of Contemporary Art, which organized the exhibit.
"He started with a single canvas, then moved to diptychs, then to triptychs. Then those became larger in scale, then he added a number of layers of imagery to his surfaces, then he added three-dimensional elements--attaching things like chair legs and seats directly to the canvas. There's a very interesting sense of development."
Salle's erotically charged paintings have sparked controversy. They are characterized by disorienting contrasts, and are often perceived as alienating.
In an exhibit catalogue, Kardon comments: "Salle images often seem directed away from us, as if we were not the right audience. His nudes present their backs to us so often, one feels the observer should be inside the picture to receive its messages."
"He is delivering his reflections on what contemporary life is," she continued in the interview, "and that vision may be that life itself is alienating, or that society serves up alienation. I think there is a separation between the painting and the viewer which he has purposefully established.
"I think Salle is a good index of a lot of artists' concerns of the day," Kardon noted, "issues of appropriation, of Post-Modernism, of isolated fragments rather than a narrative, and the interest in large-scale color painting--just the return of painting is of concern to many contemporary artists."
"David Salle" is the second of four traveling exhibitions included in MOCA's yearlong inaugural exhibition, "Individuals: A Selected History of Contemporary Art, 1945-1986."
MOVING PICTURES: MOCA also launches a monthlong series of Japanese videos Tuesday. "New Video: Japan" is composed of 23 recent works independently produced by 25 Japanese film makers, photographers, performance and visual artists, musicians and writers.
The series includes four programs of videos, each shown repeatedly over six days. Program No. 1, presenting "Video Letter," by Shuntaro Tanikawa and Shuji Terayama, and "Great Mother Part II: Yumiko" by Mako Idemitsu, will run Tuesday through May 3.
"Video Letter" is exactly what it sounds like, said MOCA media curator Julie Lazar the other day.
"A video letter is a form the Japanese have used to encourage the public to use video equipment," she said. "They encouraged people to write to each other using video as a medium. It's like how Polaroid encouraged people to use their cameras by recording births or their children's growth rates."
However, Lazar added, because "Video Letter" was produced by two poet/film makers who "weren't just sending messages to one another," the work becomes more a poignant "video poem" than a mundane taped conversation.
Idemitsu, the maker of "Great Mother Part II: Yumiko" and a graduate of Columbia University, is the only video artist in the series who has "spent time in the United States," Lazar noted. "Therefore her work is much more narrative than the rest of the work in the series; less impressionistic."
"Great Mother" is one in a series about mothers and their children, Lazar says. It is Idemitsu's Jungian view of the relationship between a young woman who tries to escape her dominating mother only to marry and a man who beats her.
"It's really talking about the treatment of women in Japan," Lazar explained.
"New Video: Japan," organized by the American Federation of the Arts and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, continues to May 24.
HIDDEN TREASURES UNVEILED: The Natural History Museum, now showing "Gold: The Quest for New World Riches," its second most popular exhibit ever, has announced plans to place on permanent display selections from its collection of pre-Columbian gold artifacts.
A renovated gallery in the museum's pre-Columbian Hall will house the display. The project will cost about $30,000, said museum spokesman John Charnay, $5,000 of which has already been received from the Ethnic Arts Council of Los Angeles. The remainder of the funds, some to be used to provide security for the objects, will be raised through the museum's foundation, he said.