New York

Melanie Baker, Pomp and Sycophants (detail), 2019, charcoal, graphite, and pastel on paper, 72 × 120".

Melanie Baker, Pomp and Sycophants (detail), 2019, charcoal, graphite, and pastel on paper, 72 × 120".

Melanie Baker

Cristin Tierney

The smoldering, menacing drawings in Melanie Baker’s “The Optimates,” her first New York solo show in roughly a decade, depicted strategically cropped images of male politicians. The three monumental works on view (the tallest was eight feet high, and the longest was ten feet wide) were rendered with fierce and at times frenzied strokes of charcoal, graphite, and pastel. In Mouthpiece, 2018, Baker leaves the bloviating face of her subject (presumably Donald Trump) out of the frame, focusing instead on the grip of his hands on a lectern emblazoned with a partially obliterated POTUS seal. In Pomp and Sycophants, 2019, one man stands in front of another, perhaps deep in conversation. Their faces are obscured—all we can see are the bald spot of one figure, whose back is to the viewer, and his interlocutor’s receding hairline, which is accentuated by a furrowed brow. And the trio of men in

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