Trappers by David Salle, 2013  (acrylic on canvas, 84 x 129 inches). Courtesy of Maureen Paley Gallery
Trappers by David Salle, 2013 (acrylic on canvas, 84 x 129 inches). Courtesy of Maureen Paley Gallery

Two solitary figures and a black cat cross a grey and windswept Missouri River in a re-painting of a scene by one of the most popular American painters of the mid-nineteenth century.

The painting, entitled Trappers, is by American postmodernist artist David Salle, and is central to his current exhibition at the Maureen Paley gallery. But while faithfully rendered, this painting is no copy. Overlayed on this carefully plotted, monochrome scene is a layer of brightly coloured body prints, made by literally dragging a model across the painting’s surface.

“I am interested in the combination of the two elements – the differences in scale, palette and modelling – the overlay of one on top of the other – and also how one group of ‘actors’ creates an image of movement from illusionistic devices such as perspective while the other group (in the studio) makes an image from a literal ‘action’,” the artist explains.

Like graffiti on a mural, Salle’s layering of a culturally specific image with the bodies of painted studio models is provocative, though it also brings to his work a new layer of abstraction and figuration.

Salle, 62, lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. His work came to prominence in the early 1980s and he is regarded as a member of the elusively named ‘Pictures Generation’, a group of painters and photographers whose work appropriated images from mass culture.

Other images on display include collages and drawings from Salle’s studio archive incorporating vintage printed matter, as well as images yet to be seen by the public.

David Salle is at Maureen Paley, 21 Herald Street, E2 6JT until 1 June

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