The left half of the diptych Comedy is executed in grisaille, a technique that has been historically used to render figures. In the right panel, a domestic scene derived from a 1950s advertisement for a bedroom set is turned on its side and, as in much of the artist’s early work, layered with additional painted imagery: a black-and-white fashion photograph in which the female figure is, disconcertingly, a headless mannequin; a garland of butterflies surrounding the “photo”; a ruffled harlequin collar of translucent cloth. The appearance of the harlequin costume in Salle’s paintings of the early 1990s alludes to his own involvement with cinema and the performing arts, in particular, his collaborations with choreographer Karole Armitage.
Salle also created a pendent for the diptych entitled Tragedy (1995) with the same four grisaille figures in a similar arrangement but with different expressions and gestures; for example, the man who grins in an exaggerated fashion in Comedy likewise frowns in Tragedy. The paired titles may similarly refer to Salle’s set and costume designs for theater and dance, as well as his venture into directing in the film Search and Destroy (1995). A cinematic influence can also be detected in Salle’s juxtapositions of vignettes that evoke filmic montage in which visual elements are arranged to produce meaning not otherwise present in the individual images.