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STEVEN BARIS

GEOMETRIES OF FLOW


STEVEN BARIS GEOMETRIES OF FLOW


BOOM BOXES Stephen Maine

DOTTED AROUND THE OUTSKIRTS OF CITIES, even smallish cities, you see them: sprawling, utilitarian structures, often one story high; big, flat boxes, architecturally unremarkable except for their aggressive blandness. In fact these are no more “architecture” than is a bus stop or a phone booth. The front entrance is incidental; in lieu of windows, there are loading docks for freight-carrying tractor-trailers. They could be almost anywhere—anywhere that is serviced by a major roadway open to big rigs. They are built for merchandise, but they are not known by the old, pungent term “warehouse,” with its 19th-century overtones connoting disused goods gathering dust on creaky shelves. Lacking a sense of urgency, that word is fading from common commercial parlance—except in its verb form, which is nearly synonymous with “forget about.” The increasing ubiquity of chain stores has given rise to the regional “distribution center,” or (even more optimistically) “fulfillment center.” This ascendant language emphasizes not the wares themselves but the activities involved en route to their consumption. In the environs of these structures there is a peculiar sense of spatial disjunction, stemming in part from the absence of any organic relationship between the structure and its site. Steven Baris is beguiled by these disjunctive spaces and non-spaces, where the “center” is marginal, peripheral; where the economically important work of storage and retrieval is conducted in the exurban zones far from the heart of the metropolis. In Baris’s paintings—for example, GEOMETRIES OF FLOW E3 (page 06)—these anonymous buildings become vaguely ominous—simplified, stark silhouettes placed with great deliberation against a lush, luminous ground. Bands of color suggesting conduits or conveyer belts sometimes connect the boxy shapes to each other or to the edge of the canvas, as in GEOMETRIES OF FLOW D15 (page 26), but just as often they are disconnected. The artist takes some of his compositional cues from satellite photos of these copious complexes. In paintings such as DRIFT D2 (page 19), he combines various systems that have been developed for rendering spatial geometrical structures in two dimensions, simulating the disorientation that accompanies attempts to get one’s bearings in the “exurban archipelago,” as he calls this specialized district.

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Baris finds kindred pictorial spirits in the Russian Constructivist artist El Lissitzky, and Ellsworth Kelly’s sublimely spatial painted reliefs—exquisitely calibrated, tough as nails. In Stuart Davis, Baris recognizes coloristic playfulness and an elastic, disjunctive pictorial space that echoes the layered, interpenetrating psychic spaces of the modern metropolis. Davis’s work, however, exuberantly celebrated the urban life of jazz clubs, flashing lights, the rhythm of traffic and commerce. Baris’s position vis-à-vis the new supply-chain culture is far more nuanced, ambivalent. He told me, “I often find a perverse enjoyment in these worlds while at the same time, an exasperation.” But Baris is not a sociologist, a psychologist or an economist; it is clear from his masterful approach to color, surface and scale that he is a painter through and through. His palette is challenging, to be sure, and it is self-justifying in visual terms, not symbolic or allegorical. In DRIFT D3 (page 19), a staggered column of polygons in gentle hues is seen against a vivid orange ground that nearly flattens the painting’s space up against the picture plane. Loosely drawn, horizontal lines slither across that ground, implying a matrix or mesh that subsumes the whole. These paintings embody give and take between the conceptual background that motivates their subject matter and the formal choices through which Baris puts that subject across to the viewer. He produces intimately scaled semi-sculptural works and enormous wall paintings with equally convincing results. STATIONS OF THE CUBE #3 (next spread, right), a shelf-mounted series of irregular polygons in white acrylic painted on small sheets of thick Plexiglas, has presence, gravitas, well beyond what its diminutive size prepares the viewer for: the shapes softly glow with ambient color reflected from the back of the panels. And the temporary wall work GEOMETRIES OF FLOW H1 (opposite), seen last year at the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts, framed nine levitating hexagons in black and turquoise against a 14-by-45-foot expanse of pale salmon-pink. As always in Baris’s work, there was no clear indication of near and far, over and under, forward and backward—save for one anchoring overlap in the composition’s upper left corner. Otherwise, the viewer’s impulse to organize the picture plane in terms of coherent, illusionistic space was pleasurably confounded.


And it is precisely the pleasure to be found in disorientation that makes these paintings click. We are accustomed to receiving clarity, solidity, firm pictorial ground from geometric abstraction. It is the atmospheric ebb and flow of expressionistic, autographic mark-making that is supposed to be the province of ambiguity and shadow, disorientation and doubt. “Flux” is brushy. The rigor of unequivocal edges, unmodulated color and graphically unambiguous distinctions between figure and ground—all hallmarks of Baris’s work—will, we expect, allow us a firm grasp on the content of a picture and, by extension, on the larger reality of which it is a paradigm. So it is a quiet, slow-burning surprise when Baris uses the formal vocabulary of geometric abstraction to introduce us to a world in which these apparent certainties are not what they seem, where illusionistic space is turned against itself, where the “center” cannot hold. As our hyper-networked culture advances, these marvelously unsettling paintings may come to seem less like a report from an expedition into the exurban archipelago, and more like a letter from home. STEPHEN MAINE IS A PAINTER AND CRITIC WHO LIVES AND WORKS IN BROOKLYN.

above left:

EXURBAN ARCHIPELAGO 1, 2012 archival pigment print on cotton rag 18 x 65 inches, edition of 10 above:

DISTRIBUTION CENTERS, SERIES 1, 2013 archival pigment print on cotton rag 18 x 58 inches, edition of 10 left:

GEOMETRIES OF FLOW H1, 2013 latex on wall, 14 x 45 feet Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts

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previous spread, left:

GEOMETRIES OF FLOW E3 | 2013 | oil on canvas | 79 x 79 inches previous spread, right:

STATIONS OF THE CUBE #3 | 2013 | (7) 12-x-10.5-inch Plexiglas panels, 7-foot shelf


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GEOMETRIES OF FLOW E4 | 2014 | oil on canvas | 50 x 50 inches


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GEOMETRIES OF FLOW D18 | 2014 | oil on Mylar | 24 x 24 inches


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GEOMETRIES OF FLOW E5 | 2014 | oil on canvas | 50 x 50 inches


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RHIZOME G1B | 2010 | oil on Plexiglas | 24 x 30 inches


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GEOMETRIES OF FLOW C3 | 2014 | acrylic on Plexiglas | 36 x 36 inches


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GEOMETRIES OF FLOW E2 | 2013 | oil on canvas | 48 x 48 inches


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RHIZOME D13 | 2010 | oil on Mylar | 24 x 24 inches


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GEOMETRIES OF FLOW E1 | 2013 | oil on canvas | 48 x 48 inches


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DRIFT D4 | 2014 | oil on Mylar | 24 x 24 inches DRIFT D2 | 2013 | oil on Mylar | 24 x 24 inches DRIFT D3 | 2013 | oil on Mylar | 24 x 24 inches


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GEOMETRIES OF FLOW D4 | 2013 | oil on Mylar | 24 x 24 inches


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GEOMETRIES OF FLOW D10 | 2013 | oil on Mylar | 24 x 24 inches


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RHIZOME D21 | 2011 | oil on Mylar | 24 x 24 inches


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SOMEWHERE BEYOND OR BEHIND E6 | 2013 | oil on canvas | 48 x 48 inches


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STATIONS OF THE CUBE | 2010 | oil on canvas | 51 x 51 inches


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GEOMETRIES OF FLOW D15 | 2013 | oil on Mylar | 24 x 24 inches


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SOMEWHERE BEYOND OR BEHIND E3 | 2012 | oil on canvas | 48 x 48 inches


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GEOMETRIES OF FLOW D11 | 2013 | oil on Mylar | 24 x 24 inches


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GEOMETRIES OF FLOW D13 | 2013 | oil on Mylar | 24 x 24 inches


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GEOMETRIES OF FLOW D8 | 2013 | oil on Mylar | 24 x 24 inches


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SOMEWHERE BEYOND OR BEHIND E11 | 2013 | oil on canvas | 48 x 48 inches


STEVEN BARIS Born 1953, Lake Quinault, Washington

EDUCATION 1985 1978

Tyler School of Art, Philadelphia, PA, MFA The Evergreen State College, Olympia, WA, BA

1975

Instituto Allende, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS 2014 2013 2012 2010 2008 2006 2004 2003 2003 2002 2001 2000 1998 1997 1996 1992 1990 1988 1986 1985 1984

Geometries of Flow | dm contemporary NYC, New York, NY Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts, Wilmington, DE Stations of the Cube | Pentimenti Gallery, Philadelphia, PA Solo Series | Abington Art Center, Abington, PA Urban Compression | Pentimenti Gallery, Philadelphia, PA The Correct Distance | Pentimenti Gallery, Philadelphia, PA Recent Works | Schmidt/Dean Gallery, Philadelphia, PA Jeffrey Coploff Fine Arts, New York, NY 364 Hayes Street Gallery, San Francisco, CA Jeffrey Coploff Fine Arts, New York, NY Schmidt/Dean Gallery, Philadelphia, PA Butters Gallery, Portland, OR Schmidt/Dean Gallery, Philadelphia, PA University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA Schmidt/Dean Gallery, Philadelphia, PA Paul Cava Gallery, Philadelphia, PA Paul Cava Gallery, Philadelphia, PA Paul Cava Gallery, Philadelphia, PA Grande Masse des Beaux-Arts, Paris, France Gallerie Taub, Philadelphia, PA Stonepress Gallery, Seattle, WA

SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS 2013 2013 2013 2013 2013 2012 2012

Maniac Episode 4 | Groningen, Netherlands International Biennial of Non Objective Art | Ciliax, France Repetitive Pattern Phobia | Berlin, Germany Three Person Exhibition | Suburbia Revisited | dm contemporary NYC, New York, NY On the Edge | Cheryl Hazan Contemporary Art, New York, NY 20 in 2012 Vision | Pentimenti Gallery, Philadelphia, PA Maniac Episode 3: Hamburg | Kunstlerhaus Dosenfabrik, Hamburg, Germany

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2012 2012 2012

Doppler Stop, Traveling Exhibition | Amsterdam, Berlin, Zagreb The Summer Show | dm contemporary NYC, New York, NY Lush Geometry | dm contemporary NYC, New York, NY

2012 Elemental | Woodmere Art Museum, Philadelphia, PA 2011 Aqua Art Fair | Miami, FL, represented by Pentimenti Gallery 2011 Maniac: Manic Episode | Brickhouse Art Gallery, Sacramento, CA 2011 Countune International Internet Social Art Project | developed and curated by Gerd Jansen, Germany 2011 Tyler Alumni Series, Robert Storr, curator | Crane Arts Building, Ice Box Project Space, Philadelphia, PA 2010 William Penn Foundation, Philadelphia, PA 2010 Spectrum | Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts, Wilmington, DE 2009 Garish | Geoffrey Young Gallery, Great Barrington, MA 2008 Aqua Wynwood | Art Basel | Miami, FL, represented by Pentimenti Gallery 2007 Victory for Tyler: Painting 2007 | Crane Arts Building, Philadelphia, PA 2007 Three Person Exhibition | Rice/Polak Gallery, Provincetown, MA 2006 Stripes Checks Balances | Michael Gibson Gallery, London, ON 2006 Takeout | Pentimenti Gallery, Philadelphia, PA 2006 Bridge Art Fair | Miami, FL, represented by Pentimenti Gallery 2006 ART212 Art Fair | New York, NY, represented by Pentimenti Gallery 2006 Order(ed) | Gallery Siano, Philadelphia, PA 2006 Contour: The Definitive Line | Schedlar/Minchin Fine Art, Birmingham, AL 2005 AAF Contemporary Art Fair | New York, NY, represented by Pentimenti Gallery and Jeffrey Coploff 2005 Criss Cross | Art Forum Ute Barth, Zurich, Switzerland 2004 Selections | Levy Gallery, Moore College of Art, Philadelphia, PA 2003 More | Mpercent Gallery, Cleveland, OH 2003 From That To This: Artists’ Inspirations, curated by Julie Courtney | Nexus, Philadelphia, PA 2002 Pure | Philadelphia Museum of Jewish Art, Philadelphia, PA 2002 Bold | Jeffrey Coploff Fine Arts, New York, NY 2000 Group Exhibition | BGH Gallery, Santa Monica, CA 2000 Three Person Exhibition | Margaret Thatcher Projects, New York, NY 1999 Selections | Jeffrey Coploff Fine Arts, New York, NY 1998 Small | Jeffrey Coploff Fine Arts, New York, NY 1998 Group Exhibition | Margaret Thatcher Projects, New York, NY 1997 Strategies in Abstraction | Philadelphia Art Alliance, Philadelphia, PA


1997 An Extended View: Landscapes by Philadelphia Artists | Moore College of Art, Philadelphia, PA 1996 2 Up | Philadelphia Art Alliance, Philadelphia, PA 1994 Drawing 94: Explorations | Kutztown University, Kutztown, PA 1994 Group Exhibition | Paul Cava Gallery, Philadelphia, PA 1989 Currents in Abstraction | Long Island University, New York, NY 1998 Perspectives From Pennsylvania | Carnegie Mellon University Art Gallery, Pittsburgh, PA 1988 The Drawing Show: Artists Who Have Exhibited at The Drawing Center In New York Massachusetts College of Art, Boston, MA 1986 Selections 33 | The Drawing Center, New York, NY 1984 Four Person Exhibition | Galleria Temple, Rome, Italy SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY Richard Benari, Backstory: Steven Baris, Tilted Arc, December 7, 2013 Edith Newhall, Galleries, Philadelphia Inquirer, October 25, 2013 Maniac: Manic Episode 2, Catalogue Essay by Thyrza Nichols Goodeve, Spring 2011 Victoria Donohoe, Wilmington Wonder, Part 1, Philadelphia Inquirer, July 23, 2010 Libby Rosof, The Art Blog, November 11, 2008 Anne R. Fabri, Broad Street Review, November, 22, 2008 Victoria Donohoe, Philadelphia Inquirer, November 21, 2008 Edith Newhall, On Galleries, Philadelphia Inquirer, May, 2006 Libby Rosof, The Art Blog, May 5, 2006 Home & Design, Editor’s Pick, Philadelphia Inquirer, May, 2006 R.B. Strauss, First Friday Focus, AroundPhilly.com, May 19, 2006 Libby Rosof, Order(ed), The Art Blog, May 5, 2006 Krystyna Warchol, Who’s On First (Friday), Key to Philadelphia, May 1-14, 2006 Roberta Fallon, Young at Art, Philadelphia Weekly, June 30, 2004 Roberta Fallon, Sketches, Philadelphia Weekly, April 21, 2004 Edward J. Sozanski, On Galleries, Philadelphia Inquirer, April 23, 2004 Celeste Starita, This Week in the Arts, Center City’s Weekly Press, May 5, 2004 Frank Smigiel, Catalogue Essay: Exhibition at Jeffrey Coploff Fine Art, New York, NY, 2003 Lily Faust, The New York Art World, February, 2002 Abstract Art Online, Gallery Views/Chelsea, January 26, 2002 Roberta Fallon, Sketches, Philadelphia Weekly, January 2, 2002 Edward J. Sozanski, On Galleries, Philadelphia Inquirer, June 21, 2002 Gerard Brown, You Have to Be There, Philadelphia Weekly, May 26, 1999

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New American Paintings #2, Open Studio’s Press, Spring 1999 Robin Rice, The Sun’ll Cross 17th Street Tomorrow, Philadelphia City Paper, July 9-16, 1998 Edward J. Sozanski, On Galleries, Philadelphia Inquirer, January 2, 1998 Jeanne Nugent, Room for a View, Philadelphia Weekly, June 4, 1997 Robin Rice, Familiar Territory, Philadelphia City Paper, July 17, 1997 Ruth Latter, Language of Color Stretches from Rome to the Reservation, The Daily Progress, Charlottesville, VA, March 20, 1997 Bill Scott, Review of Exhibitions, Art in America, September, 1996 Rita Rosen, Sketches: The Art World, The Jewish Exponent, Philadelphia, January 18, 1996 Edward J. Sozanski, On Galleries, Philadelphia Inquirer, February 9, 1996 Edward J. Sozanski, On Galleries, Philadelphia Inquirer, November 27, 1992 Edward J. Sozanski, On Galleries, Philadelphia Inquirer, January 14, 1988 Edward J. Sozanski, On Galleries, Philadelphia Inquirer, January 2, 1986 Colorprint USA, catalogue, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX, 1983 SELECTED GRANTS + AWARDS 2013 2008 2006 1997 1995 1983

Pollock-Krasner Grant, Pollock-Krasner Foundation Bertha C. Arnold Smith Trustees Award Agnes + Sophie Dallas Irwin Memorial Fund, Travel Grant PEW Fellowships in the Arts, Finalist Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, Artist’s Fellowship Purchase Prize: Outstanding Merit, Colorprint USA, Texas Tech University

SELECTED COLLECTIONS Canon USA Inc., New York, NY Coventry First Insurance Company, Fort Washington, PA Iroko Pharmaceuticals, LLC, Philadelphia, PA Liberty Properties, Philadelphia, PA Progressive Insurance Company, Cleveland, OH Prudential Insurance Company, Newark, NJ Rosenbluth Travel, Inc., Philadelphia, PA Statoil, Houston, TX Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX Thomas Properties, Philadelphia, PA Wilmington Trust, New York, NY Work included in numerous private collections in North America, Europe and Australia


This catalog is published on the occasion of the exhibition: Steven Baris, Geometries of Flow, dm contemporary NYC, March 21 – May 3, 2014. Funding for this catalog is made possible by a grant from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation. Cover: GEOMETRIES OF FLOW E1, 2013 (detail), oil on canvas, 48 x 48 inches Copyright Š 2014 Steven Baris and Stephen Maine All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without prior written permission from the copyright holders. StevenBaris.com Design: Linda Baris Design


STEVEN BARIS: GEOMETRIES OF FLOW  

This catalog was printed on the occasion of a solo exhibition at DM Contemporary, NYC in the spring of 2014. Essay: Stephen Maine. Design: L...

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