This is the artist’s seventh solo show at the gallery, where he also co-curated the group exhibition, I Won’t Grow Up, in 2008.
With this show, Baechler continues his explorations of heavily outlined, iconic imagery set against richly textured, layered fields. In many of the new paintings, the field is composed of fabric collage, overlaid with striations and blots of pastel-colored acrylic paint. The forms are thick and solidly rendered; floating untethered within its borders. There is an awkwardness and alienation that infuses his figures, which include sickly looking, moon-headed men; a handcuffed prisoner guided by a police officer’s hand; and a pair of armless, Brancusi-inspired lovers locked in a kiss.
Critically, Baechler has been linked to the Neo-Expressionist generation of painters, but he has also been deeply influenced by the Conceptual artist Joseph Kosuth, and he has listed Cy Twombly, Giotto, and Robert Rauschenberg as the three artists most important to his thinking. Expressive brushwork combined with abstract, formal rigor has defined Baechler’s work from early on, and these paintings, which are deeply embedded in the history of modernist and postwar art, foreground their visual links to artists as different as James Ensor and Jean-Michel Basquiat.
In a sign of the times, however, Ensor’s grimly masked reveler now bears a nauseated grimace, while the graphic punch of Basquiat’s unruly, graffiti-based paintings is pressurized into self-contained forms outlined in black and often highlighted in white. The cutout quality of these images, painted flatly against a bustling field, present the figure-ground relationship in terms of polar opposites, further enhancing the paintings’ sense of enigmatic estrangement.