Robert Baribeau: Recent Work marks Baribeau’s tenth solo show at the Allan Stone Gallery and his first since 2004. The exhibition, comprised of seven mixed-media paintings and eight works on paper, continues the investigation of the visual plane that Baribeau first began with 2004’s Field Paintings, Still Lifes, and Objects.
For Baribeau, these paintings are best approached as landscapes. Having grown up on a farm in Oregon and worked for a landscape architect while in college, the memory of those experiences remains in his aesthetic. While abstract, the large pieces possess the formal qualities of landscape painting, yet Baribeau, with his impasto touches and dynamic use of color, creates a bold and kinetic re-imaging of a classical subject matter. The resultant images do not immediately reveal themselves, forcing the viewer to engage with the paintings on a level of continual discovery. Baribeau’s flower paintings must be seen then as a telescopic view of the intricacies of his landscapes. These smaller paintings possess an odd paradoxical quality as they are at once delicate in both their form and subject yet are still filled with all the vibrant kineticism of his larger pieces. Though the work is experienced as different parts of the same entity, the viewer is granted a sense of intimac y and distance allowing for the images to come together as a cohesive whole rather than disparate works that remain at variance to one another.
A disciple of New York School Abstract Expressionism, the influence of its second-generation masters is deeply felt in Baribeau’s paintings. His large-scale works, on canvas and paper, with their thick, asymmetrical bands of color, draw from Richard Diebenkorn’s mid-1950s Berkeley paintings. The jaggedness of the brushstroke with its horizontal lines dripping into one another, the pooled acrylic medium and oil paint, and scraps of cloth embedded into the work itself, all recall Robert Rauschenberg’s late 1950s combine paintings, in particular Rhyme (1956) and Warbler (1957).
Yet instead of segmenting his influences, Baribeau merges them into a single entity all his own, creating what Michael Kimmelman calls, “vigorous pictures that convey the sheer pleasure in the handling of paint.” That he chooses to work on both paper (“for its touch”) and canvas (“for its bounce”) for the different tactile sensations that they deliver in the handling of paint demonstrates a commitment to the very act and experience of painting. It is the “pleasure in the handling of paint” that defines Baribeau as an artist.
Robert Baribeau was born in Oregon in 1949. He has been represented by the Allan Stone Gallery since 1979. Baribeau received his BS from Portland State University in 1978, and his MFA from the Pratt Institute in1979. His grants and honors include a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant, a National Endowment for the Arts Grant, a Pratt Institute Art Department Grant/Fellowship, and a Florence Saltzman-Heidel Foundation Grant.