KRISTIN BAKER - FLAT OUT
By Victoria Keddie
I remember working at NASCAR one summer in Daytona Beach with my sister. The smell of charred rubber, beer, and white trash filled the arena. I never thought I would relive those memories in downtown Manhattan.
Flat Out is a show about fast cars, tight curves, and, explosions. Kristin Baker has created a full sensory environment. Walking into Deitch Projects, I was suddenly projected into the pit. Busted orange cones lined the lower walls leading into the main arena, where billboards towered above the marred remains of NASCAR and Grand Prix. I could smell the Castrol oil. Compared with the works displayed in Painting Report at PS1 last year, which were overshadowed by Al Heldâ€™s massive sci-fi landscapes, the paintings at Deitch demand to be reckoned with.
Baker is one of a group of geometrically and geographically driven artists delving into the explosion of formâ€” Julie Mehretu, Franz Ackerman, and Matthew Ritchie all come to mind. In fact, one could place the paintings in Flat Out within a recent group show entitled Global Navigational System at the Palais de Tokyo this past summer. Baker navigates abstract geometries through her flattened and fractured translations of race car disasters.
Using race car driving as a direct connection to painting, Baker emphasizes the idea of control verses chaos. The press release claims that her work is a study of "how close one can get to over-stimulation without an aesthetic crash." Although the works themselves do not break any boundaries, in paintings like "2 Track Miles Per Hour," the stimulus is intense and ever-present. Staring at the colorful collage set off against a backdrop of shiny PVC, I was seduced. The works themselves project perspectival cues, thereby moving the viewer into a three dimensional space. But it is her layering of materials that make the paintings both multi-dimensional and illusionistic projectiles. With a giant explosion set bang in the center of the painting, I couldnâ€™t help thinking of one of those cameras in the cars behind the accident, filming the disaster. The painting seems to emit an endless replay of the spectacle, the viewer serving as the commentator.
KRISTIN BAKER - SURGE AND SHADOW
By Roberta Smith
Kristin Baker's paintings strike the eye with a harsh and dazzling newness. But the eye adjusts and eventually is bored, despite the surfeit of thought, skill and art-historical asides.
These clever, ambitious mergers of Pop, Minimalism and Abstract Expressionism reframe painting in cataclysmic compositions that nonetheless feel overly prescribed and soulless. Each work explodes across the surface as across a billboard or movie screen, in insistent synthetic colors; acrylic, not oil; applied with trowels and squeegees, not paintbrushes, to PVC, not canvas.
The surfaces seem collaged together from slick, paper-thin, alternately jagged and straight-edged shards of the stuff, like 21st-century stained-glass windows. But the colors are actually smoothed on wet, in shapes determined by quantities of tape, huge tangles of which are visible in the poster announcing the show.
These pieces might be wildly Futurist versions of the resin paintings that the California artist Ron Davis was known for in the 1960s; their translucence makes it seem as if you could retrace their labor-intensive process shape by shape. Then you start to sense the carefully plotted spatial perspective in some of the explosions and recognize the famous precedents that are the basis for others. This makes Ms. Baker's enterprise all the more daunting.
'The Raft of the Perseus' is a high-gloss version of Gericault's Raft of the Medusa, minus the people. Surge and Shadow of the Secondhand Thrill is Delacroix's -Death of Sardanapalus,- also depopulated. Worn and Torn on the Offcoming, a vertical two-sided piece, recalls both Marcel Duchamp's 'Nude Descending a Staircase' and his 'Large Glass,' as well as a Renaissance deposition scene.
I was told that the show's centerpiece - a large curving billboardlike painting titled 'Flying Curve, Differential Manifold,' whose white-enamel-on metal scaffolding deserves its own show is an exploded version of the four seasons and was also inspired by 'Tu m, thought to be Duchamp's last painting.
As all this becomes visible, everything quiets down and falls into place because the images are basically photographic. They could have been made on a computer.
I recommend a series of small studies in the downstairs gallery, in which the production of the image doesn't become the main subject. Here Ms. Baker's interest in landscape and the sublime - as well as compositions by visionary artists like Arthur Dove - is available for the seeing, without being worked to death.