Saturday, 6 June 2015

JO BAER at CAMDEN ARTS CENTRE


Mildly diverting exhibition by a New York artist who started off abstract but went figurative in the early 70s.  There are one or two examples of the early stuff - mostly astoundingly dull with the exception of a couple of small pictures with stars in them.  Four or five large paintings that give the exhibition its title - 'In the Land of Giants' - take as their theme standing stones that the artist has seen in Ireland, where she worked for some ten years or so in the 70s and 80s.  They are big, and tend to have a kind of void - either an emptiness or a darkness - at the their centre (echoing rather the dull abstract pictures).    There are elements of proper drawing - rather amateurish to this uncuratorial eye - in them but at least there is a focus in the stones.  Other paintings in the exhibition are full of disparate images, some half-realised, some cunningly hidden in the layers of the picture.  This isn't surrealism.  I'm not sure what you'd call it.  On the back of the 'File Note' that accompanies the exhibition are two quotations from Dylan Thomas, 'adapted' by Jo Baer, but actually it is the other Dylan, Bob, that these paintings bring to mind, particularly the albums of 1965-66, though they suffer by comparison, having no voice or rhythm to give them coherence.  Still, they are enjoyable, almost persuading one to take the time to try and decipher their 'meanings' (an attempt, that, as with Dylan, would probably prove fruitless).  Recommended if passing by on a sunny day.  Lovely outside garden and cafe.  Free entry, so why not?

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