David Salle painted Sestina in 2002. It was first exhibited at the Mary Boone Gallery in Chelsea in 2003. Mary Boone was Salle's first gallery, the gallery that helped put him on the map of the art world in the 80's. He jumped galleries in the 90's, choosing Gagosian and then back to Mary Boone when Sestina was shown along with four other of his paintings. Ironically it was in the 90's that Salle, along with many of the other art stars from the 80's, fell from favor. Salle continued to work during those down years, making a movie "Search and Destroy" and designing sets for ballet and the theater.
Comparing Sestina with Pastel, Sestina seems brighter in both color and tone. His later images have less layers and the colors brighter, perhaps even cheerier. Like almost all of Salle's work, Sestina is made up of multiple panels, three instead of the two in Pastel. Check out the two black-eyed Susans and the tulips. Of course there are images of women but compared to his earlier almost pornographic views these women seem sedate, even the reclining nude who seems to be carved of wood.
Like many other artists including Jasper Johns, Salle has made a habit of not answering questions about what his art means. However in one interview for the New York Times in January 2003, he was presented with a question about the meaning of Sestina. Salle responded with "Ask me later. Ask me in an hour." An hour later, he first responded with he couldn't put the answer in one sentence and then proceeded to try to explain it with a Woody Allen vignette. He finally answered with...
"The painting," he said, "is an exhortation to be happy."So there you have an answer as to the meaning of a work of art from an artist who could be thought of as an art Sphinx.
He continued, "One of the reasons that still-life painting is inherently compelling is because from the beginning it was a representation of the fleeting nature of existence. The objects in the painting are all that is left behind. But this painting" ? he nodded toward the picture we had been looking at ? "is only nominally a still life. It's a dismantled still life."
"The connection between the women is syntactical," Mr. Salle said, a bit cryptically. "It operates on the deepest level of pictorial syntax."