Painting at a time when painting is dead.

I have been working with Curator Lisa Dorin to develop text for our website about the painter Monika Baer. During my current Fellowship I have been professionalizing my writing practice, while still keeping accessibility at the forefront of my thinking. I would love any feedback on whether or not this text is accessible for those unfamiliar with Baer’s work or contemporary painting.

Baer’s work investigates whether it is possible to develop a new language around painting. She is not afraid to explore the abject, the lowbrow and the spectacle and performance of viewing works in a gallery. My piece on L is below:

sadly, this image hardly does the work justice. Borrowed from ArtNet.
sadly, this image hardly does the work justice. Borrowed from ArtNet.

Monika Baer’s paintings blend juxtaposing styles to develop a new form of painting despite its historic association with master artists. Baer studied painting at the Dusseldorf Art Academy from 1985-1992, a time when the Conceptualism of the 70s had exhausted meta explorations of painting. Baer’s contemporaries were interested in investigating forms of photography. Little mentoring existed for Baer as an emerging painter. In spite of these constraints, Monika Baer chose to dedicate her art practice to painting and pushes conventions by mixing techniques in a single composition.

Baer uses a method of painting developed from her own language of repeated symbols, kitsch and theatrics. She creates each work as a part of a series, rather than a single painting. Baer repeats shapes and forms from previous paintings as if they were characters making repeat appearances throughout her oeuvre. Baer’s first recognized works featured a series of marionettes performing on the canvas as a stage- a motif Baer returns to in all of her work. Her canvas is a loosely defined stage, the objects placed onto her ethereal backdrops hint at a narrative, which is more elusive than direct.

In her painting, L, two meticulously rendered liquor bottles stand in the foreground against an ethereal pastel backdrop. An imagined ledge holds the bottles in place for the viewer. Though beautifully rendered, the opened liquor bottle suggests something dark and sinister. The cap sits below a muddy brown splotch scraped into the canvas. Looking closely, smeared paint, a bulbous-nosed man, a bone and a figure emerge from the backdrop behind the bottles.

The mixture of beauty and abject, rendered realism and ethereal expressionism, highlight the contrasts Monika Baer explores throughout her artwork. Her practice draws interest back into the world of painting, at a time when many in the art world felt the medium was so overwrought with meaning and references it would be impossible to say anything new.


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