In Aerialist, David Salle overlaps disparate images borrowed from a variety of genres, in a self-conscious acknowledgement of the process of creating art. Salle uses an overall techinque of assemblage that, layer by layer, transforms the separate images into signs, allowing him to de-construct the differing styles of Western painting.
His mixing of styles and images is not the traditional assemblage technique of the early Twentieth Century. In a Cubist collage, for example, fragments are subordinated to the whole, and the individual parts coalesce into a central image or concept. In Salle's work, on the other hand, the mix of elements eludes any unity and does not make sense in any traditional, formalist way.
"Although it might first appear that Salle's images are totally disconnected, selected almost by chance from the infinite examples of high and low art, interior decoration, photography and commercial illustration that glut our image banks, the accumulation by now of a substantial body of his work has begun to define coherent principles of choice, as if we had got to know through the medium of stream-of-consciousness the unique contours of an artist's public and private personality. A consistent attraction to images, textures, materials that seem removed by one or two degrees from any absolute realuty informs all his work...
"In all of this, Salle may well belong to what is commonly categorized these days as a Post-Modernist aesthetic, in which an earlier 20th century struggle for an original style, for authentic, first-hand feeling has been abandoned in favor of a detached awareness of the widest range of visual specters that have come to haunt us...Original singular images and emotions have become, ironically, abstractions whereas their multiple facsimilies have become our realities. By accepting this jungle of surrogate experience, Salle not only mirrors the new facts of life that surround us, but can transform them into a new art of shadow-boxing images that we recognize both as property common to us all and as an achievement uniquely his." (R. Rosenblum, "Notes on David Salle," Galerie Bischofberger, Zurich 1985)
Like an aerialist, the artist, from on high, spins his images into a complex web of narrative that challenges the viewer to decipher it, walking the fine line between poetic meaning and the incomprehensible.