From the University of Texas Blanton Museum of Art in Austin.
Horizontals Tiered (Vertical Diptych)
Oil and synthetic resin on canvas
132.1 cm x 182.9 cm (52 in. x 72 in.)
Gift of Mari and James A. Michener, 1968
Collector James Michener bought this spare, two-part painting during his first visit to the studio Jo Baer shared with her husband at that time, painter John Wesley. Richard Bellamy, a young New York gallerist who had a sharp eye for new talent, served as guide on these scouting excursions, a crucial part of Michener's process of selecting works. Baer's work was notably forward-thinking for its time. She was committed to a rigorously formal approach to abstract painting: her interest was in the visual qualities of the work-its composition, surface, the relationship of depicted space to line and form-rather than in any implied meaning or message. Her aim was to create a painting that emphasized its frontal plane in a way that would echo the wall behind it, suggesting the architectural character of the painting's shape. Indeed, the work echoes its own edges with its two interior border markings, and even replicates itself in two panels, yet it denies any allusion to a window, the conventional association that has accompanied the framed panel or canvas since Renaissance times. The artist has challenged the viewer to regard her minimal work, stripped of the more ingratiating aspects of painting, as absolute in its simplicity.
Just for fun I wrote up my own description of a Mondrian homage I painted:
Kent Wang's work fuses chaos with order, with lines and shapes laid randomly - at first glance. Closer inspection gradually reveals that a set of rules governs the placement of shapes and the choice of colors. Thus, the artist challenges the viewer to explore the rules encoded in the subconscious that shape our aesthetics, to consider why we find beauty in the juxtaposition of chaos and order.
Rather than any implied meaning or message, the minimalist nature of these paintings encourages the viewer to consider the visual qualities of the work - the composition, surfaces, textures and the relationship of depicted space to line and form. In simplicity, art becomes more direct and incisive in its dissection of the human mind, a more lucent mirror of our collective subconscious.