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    Complete archive, 1999-present


    Wedge in Richard Baker: Recent Paintings
    Courtesy of Tibor de Nagy

    Hypno realism

    Still life paintings that are full but hint at emptiness in Richard Baker's new show.


    Richard Baker's paintings include flowers, fruit, lemonade with sugar cubes, martinis with olives, blueberries, watermelons, crackers, and lobsters. The list suggests the plenitude of a cornucopia, but surprisingly his still-life paintings reflect the reveries of a confident yet disenfranchised intelligentsia. His compositions of such delicious edibles simultaneously convey confidence in the good life and self-conscious removal from it. His style engages layers of nostalgic impulses, from synthetic cubism to American trompe l'oeil, Dutch genre painting, and surrealist agitprop. The linear clarity in Baker's high-toned umbers and sandy landscapes contrast with the intense hues of his subject matter to isolate and awkwardly strengthen it.

    Exhibition: Recent Paintings.
    Works by: Richard Baker.
    April 28 - May 27, 2005

    Gallery: TIbor de Nagy
    724 Fifth Avenue
    New York NY
    Summer hours: 10-5:30 M-F, closed Aug.
    Regular hours: 10-5:30 Tue-Sat.
    Phone: (212) 262-5050

    Many of the works were painted on Cape Cod where he spent several summers. In Plenty Good Scatter, Baker takes Juan Gris literally at his visual word. Foregrounding a seaside landscape, he projects the table frontally and places a pitcher of tulips between two flanking 'piles' of books and memorabilia, below a box of Good and Plenty. The covers of the books fan upwards and depict the classics of the urban elite: William Carlos Williams, Franz Kafka and Allen Ginsburg. Scattered photographs index the senses. The naturalistic flowers, the geometry of the grisaille-toned literature, and the literal rendition of pop iconic clutter, are anchored by a tabletop that disconcertingly defines two different horizons.

    Plenty Good Scatter in Richard Baker: Recent Paintings  
    Courtesy of Tibor de Nagy  
    Plenty Good Scatter
    Baker's signature flowers are tulips. He often sets them in ordinary drinking glasses and brings out the convex roundness of their petals and their refracted thick stems. The reflective surfaces of his glass and water motifs provide the loveliest passages in the show. His paintings are suggestive of the Dutch approach to still life as defined by Constantijn Huygens, who thought that the attentive eye and praxis of such paintings treated "knowledge as visible and possessible," and the "picture as an instrument of learning". In contrast, Baker's microscopic gaze is thoroughly modern in its hypnotic representation of socially functioning objects. Disregarding the verisimilitude of Dutch paintings, his neo-primitive style personifies them and often renders tender observations.

      His style engages layers of nostalgic impulses, from synthetic cubism to American trompe l'oeil, Dutch genre painting, and surrealist agitprop.
    In his autobiography, William Carlos Williams described the dilemma of he and his poet friends: "We were restless and constrained ...What a battle we made of merely getting rid of capitals at the beginning of each line." Williams desired to be "aesthetically revolutionary," yet acknowledged that his comfortable standard of living did not easily facilitate the transformation of old norms nor the invention of fresh sounds. Baker's paintings as a whole implicitly recognize this sense of striving and limitation.

    Adjacent to Baker's show in the next gallery are Works on Paper by Sharon Horvath. Their double theme is the incongruous combination of bedsteads and baseball fields. Painted in dark brown ink, Horvath delineates these forms into grid like structures and patterns of essential geometries, to describe cast iron bed frames, baseball diamonds, outfields, and bleachers... Horvath's linear vocabulary is satisfyingly dense and intensifies our sensation of her heightened attention to the act of drawing. Her lines cross hatch and stop at places like pitcher's mounds and bases, like 'maps' for a dream-work that evokes the permeable boundary between our private lives and our national pastimes.

    MAY 21, 2005

    Reader comments on Richard Baker: Recent Paintings:

  • Baker review   from Jackson Sherwood, May 26, 2005
  • n/a   from lynne, Jul 17, 2005

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