Critics’ Picks

Jo Baer, Time-Line (Spheres, Angles and the Negative of the 2nd Derivative), 2012, oil on canvas, 73 x 73".

Jo Baer, Time-Line (Spheres, Angles and the Negative of the 2nd Derivative), 2012, oil on canvas, 73 x 73".

London

Jo Baer

Camden Arts Centre
Arkwright Road
April 10–June 21, 2015

Jo Baer’s Towards the Land of the Giants, 2015, paints a weird cosmology. The artist cites world history in fragments, superimposing sketches of anatomy with aerial views of a landscape. Origins are figured as a type of sedimentation. Baer’s paintings are made with the aid of computers, but her language is much older, echoing the visual grammar and style of cave paintings. Weird connections ensue: Large rocks painted without shadows float on the surface of the canvas. The viewer experiences vertiginous shifts in scale, both temporal and topographical, bodily and psychological.

Sometimes it appears as if Baer’s paintings have been processed through a mesh strainer. What we are left to look at are partial objects, bits and pieces salvaged from the wreckage. It is no wonder that a raven—the scavenger—figures prominently in Baer’s work, and an ethos of carrion or ragpickers structures her mode of assemblage. What does it mean to make the association between painting and scavenging? In In the Land of the Giants (Spirals and Stars), 2012, a raven picks at what looks like a gnarled penis. The raven is methodical in its attack: Blood seeps from the tip. This aggression is specific and conjunctural, positioned within and against the patriarchal histories of painting.

In Time-Line (Spheres, Angles, and the Negative of the 2nd Derivative), 2012, Baer shifts perspective and intersects her terrain with dull blocks of color. Abstraction is deployed obliquely, described by dark black lines. And like the empty blocks of color, Baer’s cosmology (in a general sense) prohibits the formation of meaning. Baer’s worldview, if a cosmology at all, is one accentuated by blind spots.