Donald Baechler made his name in New York in the 1980s showing his work at the legendary Tony Shafrazi Gallery with a group of artists that included Keith Haring, Kenny Scharf and Jean-Michel Basquiat. He is known predominantly for his intensely reworked graphical work and paintings which return frequently to a group of motifs and characters: ice-cream cones, thumbs-up, Disney-esque fawns, as well as more clichéd images from art history-flowers, skulls and globes. Executed in the ancient medium of Gesso, flashe paint on canvas or paper collage, Baechlers' are multi-layered works which speak volumes about the painterly process itself.Read More
Baechler has often referred to himself as collector, of imagery and references-biographical, art historical, visual ephemera-forming a rich archive in his work over the years. His influences are wide-ranging from Giotto to the abstract expressionists to American folk art and Cy Twombly.
While some of his iconography is recognisably from the world of childhood, and could be said to have a deceptive simplicity, his work, and in particular his approach to his work, is infinitely more complex. The blank surface is the beginning of a journey for Baechler, one that he himself is unsure of-an uncertainty he revels in. As he has said 'One reason I build my surfaces up is because I don't really want to know what the line is going to do. I want this built-in fracture; when I drag the brush along the canvas, I don't want it to be a smooth, easy voyage-I want some problems along the way.' It is these obstacles, and the process of overcoming and reworking them, that provide his work with a palpable surface tension. The often apparent purity of his subject matter is in a sense a misnomer.
Baechler has described himself as a formalist-putting line and form above narrative meaning. But his work has an artistic language of its own, a visual syntax that merits close study. The viewer is invited to excavate each work, layer by layer-a richly rewarding experience.
Baechlers' work is included in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art,New York; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and the Centre George Pompidou, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris among many other notable institutions worldwide.
Text courtesy Reflex Amsterdam.
In the thoroughly absorbing exhibition Donald Baechler: Early Work 1980 to 1984 at Cheim & Read, there are two works, both from 1982, in which the artist appears to be unlearning how to draw. The shapes are raw, awkward and deliberately artless. In Standing Nude (after Shelby Creagh), the model’s head is truncated by a brushy...