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Hilary Baker: From Where I’m Standing

April 5-May 19, 2016

The Harris Gallery is proud to present ‘From Where I’m Standing,’ a solo painting exhibition featuring the work of Hilary Baker. This exhibition highlights selections from four distinct bodies of work that are united by a synthesis of representation and abstraction.

‘A native and life long resident of Los Angeles, Baker’s relationship to her source material is a distillation of Modernist design principles and post-nuclear noir. Baker’s images succinctly condense information reconstituted from acute observation of the constructed industrial landscape, the historical lineage of abstraction, and mid-century graphics. Her paintings feel specific and convinced of their fact as pictures — they become articulated moments of affirmation, demonstrating right relationships. Yet her tough-minded palette and titles such as “Arlington,” “Atwater,” “Monrovia,” and “Normandie” implicate a Didion-esque unease — our collective memory a few steps removed and lost in translation.

Baker’s paintings engage illusionistic spaces that are frontal and often confrontational. Forms frequently appear as if they are above us, and honed attention is paid to locating the viewer in gradations of space. The iconic icy blue watch tower or water tank of “Atwater” is both looming and precarious, its triangulated supports explicitly perched on tippy toes at the very bottom edge of the painting, teasing out tension with shrewd economy. But the stacked elongated girders or jackhammered masonry rubble of “Barre” negotiate a closer distance. The simple, pared down shapes conjure an austere sense of sculpture. Conversely, the crisp graphic precision of Baker’s paint handling with its reductive shorthand, layers the work with the character of elegiac cartoons — slightly sinister scenarios of construction projects abandoned or gone awry. Like disaster tourists, we pick our way through elegantly reductive prismatic chunks. Baker’s boulders beg the question of how urban space is experienced within the paranoid subtext of post 911 Stone Age dystopian settlements. Baker World is quarried from the strange, poetic, darkly humorous, and grim all at once.’

– Julia Couzens