PRINT December 2017

Books: Best of 2017

Jordan Kantor

Not many people can craft a snappy sentence, and hardly any more can make a memorable painting. David Salle is one of the rare few who can do both. How welcome, then, is the arrival of his collection of (mainly recent) writings, which offers immensely readable thought pieces on art as seen through a painter’s eyes. The texts assembled in How to See: Looking, Talking, and Thinking About Art (W. W. Norton & Company, 2016) explore subjects as diverse as Piero della Francesca and Karole Armitage, with ruminations on André Derain, Jack Goldstein, and Amy Sillman in between; all evidence Salle’s fundamental commitment to close looking and his talent for describing how an artwork’s constituent forms add up to a convincing statement. A lifetime in the studio gives Salle’s writing, especially on painting, a potent and refreshing confidence. Here one feels the rubber meeting the road. Effortlessly shuttling between nuts-and-bolts formalism and discussions of the larger contexts of cultural production, Salle’s writings are notable not only for their breadth but also for what they inevitably allow us to see in his own studio practice. Some of the book’s most interesting texts reflect on the 1980s, the era in which Salle and his cohort emerged, but several are forward-looking as well, addressed directly to the young artists who may just be starting art school. Such is the range and, ultimately, the generosity of this book. Looking, talking, and thinking about art, Salle leads us through how he sees, and many will find this a rare and rewarding tour.

Jordan Kantor is a San Francisco–based artist.