“No matter what I tried, what fit best was work that involved my love of something small-scale and intimate.”
It is the beginning of a new year and for some reason I have been thinking about flower paintings — perhaps prompted by the flower paintings that Edouard Manet made while he was dying.
I do know that I had no intention of writing about the two exhibitions currently at Tibor de Nagy, John Ashbery & Guy Maddin: Collages and Richard Baker: The Doctor is Out, when I went to the gallery.
For the past decade, Richard Baker has developed two distinct but related bodies of work, one in oil and the other in gouache: the oil paintings depict tabletops covered with all sorts of printed ephemera and bric-a-brac; the gouaches are of book covers and, more recently, record covers.
Richard Baker is best known for his still-life paintings of tabletops, often tilted at impossible angles and covered with out-of-print art books and other bric-a-brac, such as ceramic pots, to-go food containers, candy bars, and tulips. Ranging from the lowbrow Learn to Draw by Jon Gnagy (Mr. “Learn-To-Draw”) to the hefty catalogue of the exhibition Paris-New York (1977) — the year the artist graduated from high school — Baker’s non-hierarchical representations form an inventory of the books that have, at different times, been central to his ongoing education, stretching from when he was a teenager until the present.