New York

Alice Baber

A.M. Sachs

Alice Baber showed recent paintings at A.M. Sachs while that gallery mounted a larger exhibition of both her recent and earlier work at 141 Prince Street. The combined exhibitions cover about 13 years of work and reveal that Baber has progressed toward a form of abstraction that increasingly relates to natural events. Several paintings from 1959–62 consist of round edgeless spheres which spread into each other. The use of a narrow range of bright color, which varies mostly in terms of value, encourages this spread. Several paintings are primarily bright pink with a little red and orange; others are primarily yellow with light green. The paintings are soft and static, like hazy clouds. During the early ’60s Baber began to increase the number of colors, their contrast, and the distinctness of the rounded shapes. The shapes become discrete, amoeboid bubbles, more or less translucent, under- and overlapping each other in a flow which seems to enter and leave the canvas at certain points. Sometimes areas of the canvas are left bare and the bubbles swirl in front of and into a white void. All areas of the spectrum are represented, although there is a tendency for blue and purple bubbles to be balanced with green, yellow, and brown, and a few red or orange ones. The titles further the naturalism inherent in this kind of imagery. The paintings sometimes represent specific, often turbulent occurrences: Dervishes Before the Palace, The Piper and the Wind, Hunt in the Mountain, Expulsion of the Mythical Kings. In this last painting, one of several triptychs which are Baber’s most recent work, the.event seems to be the expulsion of yellow bubbles through some surrounding purple ones, and occurs panel by panel. The best painting in both shows, Near the Top (1965), does none of this; the shapes are distributed separately and evenly over the entire surface.

Baber’s work is, in isolation, fairly consistent and developed. She has a definite imagery which she executes with variety and skill. From my own point of view, the combination of events and abstraction, and the use of shapes so similar to bubbles is not entirely credible at this time.

––Roberta Pancoast Smith