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FOREWORD: We are truly excited to present you with this exhibition, New Works, by Carole Bayer Sager. An incredibly gifted and iconic figure in music, Bayer Sager has uncovered a talent for visual expression that is remarkable in its depth and facility. This exhibition reveals more than the artistic expression of an exceptional talent - it reflects the passion and dedication of an artist pursuing a standard of excellence, whatever the medium. This new series engages us with an immediate appeal to our most susceptible of senses and pop-cultural memories. Paintings of peanuts, popcorn, Cracker Jacks and hotbuttered corn call to us in the creamy and buttery textures of paint. They tempt with images that delight in the sensual expressiveness of oil. There is delicious excess to be sure, but also an over-thetop edginess in the way the paintings are composed. Look, for instance, at Kid’s Delight. The peanut butter and jelly sandwich is cropped in a way that un-hinges our perspective. Another, Galaxy, achieves similar effect by dissolving the spatial plane. This disorientation pervades other paintings as well and has an unexpected effect. It allows our eye to let go of the object as we get swept up into abstract rhythms of color and texture. These macro and micro views dislocate us from familiar perspectives, allowing apparently representational images to become surprisingly abstract. The longer you look, the more this occurs. And we realize that our initial observation, “Hey, that’s peanut butter and jelly!” has been upended. The subject of the painting is not actually the object of this pursuit. We invite you to join in this exploration into the nature of perception, and share in the excitement of an artist who has found a new voice in the language of paint. -William Turner 2012

CAROLE BAYER SAGER: NOTHING LESS REAL THAN REALITY By Peter Frank Contemporary realism conceptualizes painting. It prompts us to consider how the camera has reshaped our view of our world by applying the visible conditions of the photograph to the physical conditions of the canvas. Much contemporary realism – including but not only Photo-realism – doesn’t really look at subject matter at all: it looks at how we see subject matter as a result of looking at such subject matter through various lenses. It is a sophisticated exercise in perception, at least in the hands, and eyes, of those who understand what’s going on between the seeing and the seen. It is a discussion between painter and viewer about what is painted and, even more, how it is viewed. Carole Bayer Sager doesn’t paint food, she paints how we look at and see food. In each of her paintings Bayer Sager depicts a field of vision. The identifiable thing – the nut, the cake, the sandwich – disappears in this field of vision, much the way something does when you stare at it with unyielding intensity. The peanut shell recedes into a blanket of shards, the popcorn kernel absorbs back into the field of burgeoning white shapes, the trail of jelly no longer seems to be emerging from the bread but now functions as a vertical pinion pushing back the horizontals of the bread, as if in a Mondrian abstraction. This isn’t still life. It isn’t still, and it isn’t life. This is seeing – how we see and how our sight has been reorganized by a device (or family of devices) that have been available for as long as anyone alive remembers. In her statement, Bayer Sager tells us that, in effect, she thinks of her work as abstract, that is, as a matter of formal decisions and moves that either fall together or don’t. She revealingly compares the process to her songwriting, letting us in on a little secret: a song doesn’t get you because the lyrics are what you want to hear or because the music is so engaging, but because the music and the lyrics drive each other in just the right way. Everything has to work together or nothing works at all. Similarly, everything has to work together in a Bayer Sager painting, not because she wants you to look at food and get all ravenous, nor because she wants you to look at some handsome abstract structure and be seduced by its forms and rhythms, but because that abstract structure has to make the food stand out and disappear into it at the same time. She gets you salivating but transcending your hunger. If the picture works, it can feed you, not just make you want to be fed. Bayer Sager is, if anything, more invested in the sensuality of the paint than in the sensuality of the subject matter. The paint itself is rich, thick, tactile, the surfaces often glazed. If the goodies she depicts inspire nostalgia for gustatory indulgence, the rich feel of the paint awakens a deeper, more directly and intensely felt sensation, one activated not simply by association but by direct observation. After all, the snacks and baked goods have been magnified, cropped, telescoped, and framed – all photographic techniques which Bayer Sager exploits (and thus comments on, as a contemporary realist), but which result in the subject matter’s distortion, often to the point of unrecognizability. The food no longer looks like food, it looks like images of food; it inspires oral desire the way a billboard of

a burger does, through association rather than observation. What we see before us are pictures of food – emphasis on “pictures” – not food itself. The works don’t smell of cooking oil, they smell of linseed oil – and anyone who likes their art fresh will tell you that linseed oil is an even less resistible aroma. In this regard, Bayer Sager tweaks the conditions of photo-realism as well. We don’t think of the photo-realist style as painterly. But in fact it is, and perhaps should be; while so many photo-realists are masters of the airbrush, certain of them (one thinks, for instance, of Richard Estes, and even Robert Bechtle) investigate the relationship of painting to photography by making sure their surfaces stay painterly, even while the pictures themselves are unmistakably photographic. In this way such painters underscore the conceptual clash between the sensual medium of painting and the anti-sensual medium of photography. A distinctive figure like Wayne Thiebaud also figures in this discussion: Thiebaud’s images don’t look like photographs at all, in part because of his ferociously juicy brush, but they rely at least indirectly on photography – and photographic manipulation – in the cold isolation of their subjects. Bayer Sager does not emulate Thiebaud’s painterly manner (much less his candy-toned palette); but she keeps Thiebaud in her sights by creating a tactile – a rather oddly, disturbingly tactile – photo-inflected realism, one driven by the presence rather than the absence of a painterly surface. Mention of Thiebaud, of course, reminds us that Bayer Sager is hardly the first contemporary realist to concentrate on food. But she does not mimic their strategies. She does not artificially break up the picture with painterly devices, but finds abstracting qualities in the images themselves. When she overloads the visual field, the subject matter goes in and out of focus by itself, and we find ourselves rubbing our eyes not in order to re-focus, but in order to move in and out of the painting so as to find the proper relative scale – which her cropping and tilting never quite allow. Carole Bayer Sager’s paintings are not about our desire for the subjects she depicts. They are about our perceptions. They challenge not our ability to resist our appetites but our ability to understand how we see things. This involves our psychological motivations and our sensory responses, to be sure, but it also involves the shaping of those responses – and, for that matter, those motivations – by the technology that shapes our universe. The camera helped determine our consumer culture by directing our desires and even our needs for certain stimuli. And the camera was able to do so because it had long ago won our confidence. We depend upon the camera to know our world. But how dependable is the camera? Perhaps the only thing that clever machine has revealed is that our eyesight is not dependable, either. But, then, we learn that, over and over again, from art in general. Art such as Bayer Sager’s continues to remind us that, as the Zen koan puts it, things are not as they seem, nor are they otherwise.

WHAT’S LEFT BEHIND, oil on canvas, 84”x84”

DRIPPY, oil on linen, 48”x48”

CARAMEL, oil on linen, 60”x60”

GALAXY, oil on canvas, 84”x84”

LITTLE POP, oil on linen, 48”x48”

POP AVALANCHE, oil on linen, 60”x60”

GLOBAL WARMING, oil on linen, 48”x48”

PORTRAIT OF TWO POPCORN, oil on linen, 36”x36”

ABSTRACTKORN, oil on linen, 36”x36”

BIG POP, oil on canvas, 84”x84”

KID’S DELIGHT, oil on linen, 48”x48”

CORNY, oil on linen, 48”x48”

EXPLOSION, oil on linen, 72”x72”

POPPING, oil on linen, 48”x48”

SNACKS, oil on linen, 36”x36”

MELTDOWN, oil on linen, 48”x48”

ABEX PEANUTS, oil on linen, 48”x48”

SEXY NUT, oil on linen, 36”x36”

Carole Bayer Sager: On her Music and Painting

To me, songwriting and painting are very related. I have always preferred writing ballads rather than up-tempo songs because ballads are more emotional. They elicit big feelings. In writing and producing songs, there is always that moment when the song needs to grab me or else it fails. When the string line enters for the first time, I feel deliciously satisfied, very much like the moment a painting begins to satisfy me as it becomes thick with paint and rich with color. When I can feel the drip of the jelly, the sensuality of the overly buttered corn, or the texture of the red skins of peanuts, I am “there”.

Alabaster Peanut, 5.25x13x5

And I am “there” in that same sensually satisfying way as hearing the chorus of “Nobody Does it Better”, all the instruments in the right relationship to each other, the string line riding the air, the smoothness and sensuality of Carly Simon’s voice, thick and rich, perfectly cushioned in the track. My whole being feels complete when it is right. Whether in songwriting or in painting, if I don’t get that feeling, I have not been successful. Although this can be a little depressing, I try to study why and then I move on.

IN THE COLLECTIONS OF: Shelli and Irving Azoff Eva and Michael Chow Sandy Gallin David Geffen Elton John Bobby Kotick Nigel Lythgoe Steve and Ann Martin Tamar and Bob Manoukian Mo Ostin Margie Perenchio Lynda and Stewart Resnick Jane and Terry Semel Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban Barbara Walters Elaine Wynn

SPECIAL THANKS: Bob Daly Christine Anderson Rob Brander Carolyn Campbell Michael Govan Tien Ly Margie Perenchio

Bayer Sager  
Bayer Sager  

Catalog for Exhibition 2012