Whitney Biennial 2017

Solo en Inglès

Jo Baer, Dusk (Bands and End-Points), 2012. Oil on canvas, 86 ⅝ x 118 ⅛ in. (220 x 300 cm). Collection of the artist; courtesy Galerie Barbara Thumm, Berlin. Photograph by Gert Jan van Rooij

Narrator: Jo Baer based these paintings on the landscape in Ireland, where she lived in the late 1970s and early 80s. She made them years after she had left, basing them on images of the Hurlstone—a neolithic stone said to have been hurled by a giant—and ordnance maps that diagrammed every feature of the surrounding area. This is the first time Baer’s European paintings have been shown in the United States, where she has been much better known for resolutely abstract paintings that she made beginning in the 1960s. But for Baer, the current paintings break down the idea of pure abstraction or pure figuration.

Jo Baer: I don’t think of them as figurative. I think them as, wait for it, this is a very on-time word, I think of them as really liminal. That is, paintings that exist between the figurative and the abstract. I make different structures talk to each other in their spaces and things like that. Content also matters, that is to say the meaning. You wouldn’t want to make meaning not there. But that can be much wider. People have their own stories they can tell with these paintings. You don’t have to go on mine.

These paintings could not have been made without a computer, because with a computer you can layer things, so you can have things that are opaque, you can have things that are transparent, you can blend them into each other, you can make transitions. I constructed much more easily on a computer than I did with tracings on tracing paper on a big desk, messing with them, looking around, tracing things from newspapers and books and photographs or whatever. Why do that when you can just have a digital image that you’ve built the same way, but you have so much more control and do so much more with it? You can do all kinds of subtle things.