Jo Baer

May 25–Au­gust 25, 2013

From 24 May through 25 Au­gust 2013, the Mu­se­um Lud­wig will be show­cas­ing – as the first ev­er Ger­man in­sti­tu­tion to do so – the US Amer­i­can artist Jo Baer (*1929 in Seat­tle, lives since 1984 in Am­s­ter­dam) in a so­lo ex­hi­bi­tion. Baer is re­gard­ed as a pi­oneer of Min­i­mal­ism and al­ready reached an ini­tial high point in her ca­reer in 1975 when the Whit­ney Mu­se­um of Amer­i­can Art mount­ed a ret­ro­spec­tive of her work. Start­ing out from a scarce­ly known core of draw­ings, which are flanked by ma­jor works on can­vas, the ex­hi­bi­tion con­cen­trates on the artist’s min­i­mal­ist pe­ri­od from 1960 to 1975 be­fore fol­low­ing on to her cur­rent, fig­u­ra­tive work. With around 170 works, this will be Baer’s largest overview ex­hi­bi­tion to date.

Baer rose to fame in the 1960s and 1970s with her ex­treme­ly re­duced paint­ings in which a slen­der strip of col­or along­side a broad­er black band runs round the large white cen­ter of the can­vas. The dif­fer­ence in ef­fect of the col­ored strip next to a pale or a dark field, and the im­pact of Can­vas size and for­mat on the view­er’s per­cep­tions are among the cen­tral top­ics in Baer’s paint­ing.

Af­ter mov­ing from New York to Ire­land in 1975, Baer’s work un­der­went a fas­ci­nat­ing change in style. It be­came rep­re­sen­ta­tio­n­al, nar­ra­tive and mul­ti­col­ored. She de­vel­oped her prin­ci­ple of “Rad­i­cal Fig­u­ra­tion”, in which she traced el­e­ments from cul­tu­r­al his­to­ry, such as archa­ic cave paint­ing or an­cient Gre­cian cul­ture, back to their ori­gins. This re­search is re­flect­ed by her paint­ings from 1975 on­ward.   The link be­tween th­ese two dist­inct phas­es in Baer’s cre­a­tive out­put may be seen, ac­cord­ing to the th­e­sis of this ex­hi­bi­tion, in her works on pa­per from the ear­ly 1960s. Her gouach­es re­veal an ear­ly in­ter­est in signs and sym­bols, and al­so a wider spec­trum of col­ors. At the same time the ex­hi­bi­tion ex­plores her draw­ing as an in­stru­ment for de­vel­op­ing new im­ages, as pro­to­types and aides-mé­moire. With this ret­ro­spec­tive view, the ex­hi­bi­tion pays tribute to the ex­cep­tio­n­al work of one of the tru­ly great pain­ters of our times and pre­sents Baer as a unique and in­de­pen­dent-mind­ed artist.

The ex­hi­bi­tion is close­ly linked with the mu­se­um’s own col­lec­tion. Al­ready in the 1970s Irene and Peter Lud­wig bought a num­ber of works by Baer. In 2010 this com­mit­ment was ex­pand­ed to in­clude a group of nine ear­ly draw­ings and the print port­fo­lio “Car­d­i­na­tions”.   The ex­hi­bi­tion is ac­com­panied by an ex­ten­sive oeu­vre ca­t­a­logue pub­lished by Ver­lag der Buch­hand­lung Walther König, which in­cludes texts by Ju­lia Frie­drich, Lu­cy R. Lip­pard, Lau­ren O'Neill-But­ler, and David Raskin, and a fore­word by Philipp Kais­er.   Par­al­lel to the Mu­se­um Lud­wig, the St­edeli­jk Mu­se­um in Am­s­ter­dam will be show­ing Jo Baer’s lat­est works in the ex­hi­bi­tion “In the Land of the Giants” (16 May – 1 Septem­ber 2013).  

Ex­hi­bi­tion cu­ra­tor: Ju­lia Frie­drich