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Jo Baer

Alexander Gray Associates
508 West 26th Street, 2nd floor, 212-399-2636
April 4 - May 12, 2007
Reception: Wednesday, April 4, 6 - 8 PM
Web Site

Celebrated for her contributions to Minimalism in the 1960s and 1970s, Jo Baer is best known for her spare compositions of white and grey forms with black and colored borders. Since the late 1970s, when Baer left the United States to live in Europe, she has been making image-based works, which are largely unknown to American viewers. This radical shift in style has made her one of the most intriguing figures of her generation, and begs the question of an artist’s prerogative to change.

In her polemic essay, I am no longer an abstract artist, (Art in America, No. 71, October 1983), Baer questioned the political and social relevance of Minimalism and abstraction, which she saw as co-opted by the art market and stylistic concerns; in its place, she proposed a move towards `r adical figuration.’ “To construct a radical figuration is to reject the preeminence of either image or space to correspond to the parity of subject and its locale.” She continues, “To enhance discourse is to paint and draw in fragment, which is an open adventure; it is having paintings talk (as opposed to talking about parts of others’ paintings.) The topology is not complete until the contours and coastlines are arranged upon a coherent surface enforcing a cleaving together of those chosen fragments, split from former contexts and deformed into a new unity of meaning.”

In her exhibition at Alexander Gray Associates, Baer presents four large-scale works, which she has refers to as “image constellations.” These paintings, shown for the first time in the United States, incorporate imagery drawn from a range of historical, mythological, cultural and natural sources. Two paintings from the early 1990s, are epic in scale, with a soft palate of beiges and browns, with delicate ghosted drawn lines that appear fluid, through a deft application of paint. At the Back of the North Wind (1990) arranges maps and cave drawing-like patterns with ballerinas, a horse, and a hanging man; Of A Fearful Symmetry (1991) also includes transmutations of humans and animals, a soldier’s boots, and dancers. Paintings from the early 2000s are bolder in their visual impact, with deeper colors and architectural presence. The content of the paintings are associative and layered; in Testament to the Powers that Be (2001), topographical maps intersect with mountain ranges and details of the Hoover Dam; in Shrine of the Piggies (2001), outlines of male reproductive organs are overlayed on the interior view of a men’s bathroom.
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