Three Kings: Painters David Salle, Eric Fischl, and Ross Bleckner Return to the Decades They Conquered

The famed artists and old friends remember the 70’s and 80’s in a new exhibition at the Parrish Museum.

August Calendar
Photographs by Jeannette Montgomery Barron

The artists David Salle, Eric Fischl, and Ross Bleckner met in the early 1970s, while they were students at CalArts, and have been friends ever since. Asked what united them, Fischl, 68, says, “We were painters.” Nowadays that sounds minor, but back then, the school “was absolutely anti-painting.” Conceptual practices reigned. All three moved to New York and thrived in the quicksilver ’80s: Bleckner with luminous abstractions; Salle with gimlet-eye montages; and Fischl with nervy depictions of suburban trauma. They also began spending time in the Hamptons, sharing the kind of artistic, personal, and, yes, competitive dynamic that has flourished there among artists for more than 200 years. “Unfinished Business: Paintings From the 1970s and 1980s by Ross Bleckner, Eric Fischl, and David Salle,” at the Parrish Art Museum, in Southampton (July 31 through October 16), examines their relationship in those heady years. “I remember our work vividly,” Fischl says. “And it’ll be interesting to see if individual pieces still relate to one another in the way they did back then.”

Eric Fischl’s Master Bedroom, 1980.

Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles