David Salle
American, born 1952, Norman, Oklahoma; lives Brooklyn, New York
Stacks Image 4867
Poverty is No Disgrace, 1982
Oil, acrylic, charcoal and chair on canvas
98 in. x 205 in. x 20 in. (248.92 cm x 520.7 cm x 50.8 cm)
Museum Acquisition Fund and gift of Larry Gagosian
2000.45 a-d
David Salle’s refusal to resolve disparate elements into a harmonious whole reflects a postmodernist world view that artists embraced  in the 1980s. Modernism’s optimism, belief in progress and linear view of history no longer seemed valid in a postindustrial world. Poverty Is No Disgrace presents a smorgasbord of images, styles and subjects from both high art and popular culture sources.  Rather than offering a narrative, Salle asks whether it is still possible to create a painting that does not reference past art and if one style is better than another. Salle derived the abstract forms floating on the right hand panel from a collage by Johannes Baargeld, an early 20th-century German Dada artist. He reworked the holocaust scene, which is obscured and covered in part by an orange head from one of Salle’s own drawings.  The nude on the right, deriving from a photograph in an anatomy book, questions the relationship of photography and painting.  In turn, the classic 1950s Eames chair bolted to the central panel brings up the relative status and interdependence of the “fine” and “applied” arts. Dominated by grayed or acid colors that endow the composition with a somber quality, Poverty Is No Disgrace is not about people, dreams or historical events, but about painting and its role in the image-saturated society of the 1980s.

Museum curators spent some time seeking to identify a signature artwork to represent the 1980s in its collection prior to recommending Poverty Is No Disgrace for acquisition.  The composition provides a bridge between earlier Pop masterpieces and later post-modernist examples. Poverty Is No Disgrace came with an outstanding provenance and exhibition history, earning accolades from critics as the “single most important painting” in the exhibition when it was on view in the 1983 Whitney Biennial.
A related work at the Akron Art Museum
Mickalene Thomas
American, born 1971, Camden, New Jersey; lives Brooklyn, New York
Stacks Image 5522
Acrylic, enamel and rhinestones on panel
108 x 144 in.
Collection of the Akron Art Museum, The Mary S. and Louis S. Myers Endowment Fund for Painting and Sculpture  2010.1