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Pleasant Journeys and Good Eats along the Way: A Retrospective Exhibition of John Baeder
John Baeder, Prout's Diner, 1974. Morris Museum of Art, Augusta, Georgia.

AUGUSTA, GA.-Pleasant Journeys and Good Eats along the Way: A Retrospective Exhibition of Paintings by John Baeder, the first major traveling exhibition solely devoted to the work of this important contemporary realist, remains on view through March 9, 2008 at the Morris Museum of Art in Augusta, Georgia.

“This exhibition enables us to bring to our community and region the work of an artist who is justly renowned as one of America’s preeminent realist painters,” said Kevin Grogan, director of the Morris Museum of Art.

Organized by Morris Museum of Art curator Jay Williams, the exhibition includes forty of Baeder’s painstakingly rendered oils and watercolors, spanning the period 1974–2004, Baeder’s work documents the roadside eateries he reveres—diners, taco trucks, and barbecue dives. His depiction of them captures the pulse of America in a bygone era.

As American art critic, poet, and professor Dr. Donald Kuspit states in his catalogue essay, “Unspoiled America: John Baeder’s Diners, “There is a lyric ease to Baeder’s handling, a delicacy of touch especially evident in his watercolors, giving them a poetic cast, in contrast to the hard-edged intensity of his oil paintings, where the diners are presented with abrupt clarity, giving them the ‘sensation of the new’ . . . The paintings especially make it clear that Baeder is a master of geometrical abstraction as well as nuanced representation . . . “

After its premier at the Morris Museum, the exhibition travels to the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, South Carolina, where it will be on view in March and April, 2008, the Asheville Art Museum in Asheville, North Carolina, July–October, 2008, and the Tennessee State Museum in Nashville, Tennessee, December 2008–January 2009. (The Nashville showing will coincide with the artist’s seventieth birthday.)

This exhibition is accompanied by a fully color-illustrated book, Pleasant Journeys and Good Eats along the Way: The Paintings of John Baeder. Co-published by the Morris Museum of Art and the University Press of Mississippi, it includes essays by Dr. Donald Kuspit, one of the leading critical voices in contemporary American art, and Morris Museum curator Jay Williams, a preface by Morris Museum director Kevin Grogan, and a statement by the artist. The book is available through the Morris Museum of Art store.

The artist: One of America’s most-admired realist painters, John Baeder was born in South Bend, Indiana, in 1938 and shortly afterward, moved with his family to Atlanta where he was raised. He attended Auburn University before embarking on a career in advertising in 1960. He pursued a very successful career as an art director for ad agencies, in Atlanta and New York City until the early nineteen-seventies.

During his years in New York, Baeder kept his technique sharp by drawing, painting, and taking photographs, while his day job as an art director kept him focused on American material culture. He also began to collect old postcards of roadside America whose images were grounded in early modern realist photography and early color lithography. They helped to inspire him to make the transition from the world of advertising to the world of art.

In 1974, Ivan Karp began exhibiting Baeder’s paintings at his well-known SoHo gallery OK Harris Works of Art in New York. Since then Baeder’s work has been the subject of more than thirty solo exhibitions, and it has been included in more than 150 group shows. Baeder’s paintings can be found in the permanent collections of many noteworthy American museums, including those of the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Cooper-Hewitt Museum, the Norton Museum, the Denver Art Museum, the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Newark Museum, the High Museum of Art, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Yale University Art Gallery, and the Morris Museum of Art, to cite just a few, as well as corporate and private collections in Europe and the United States too numerous to mention.

The author of three popular books—Diners (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1978 and 1995), Gas, Food, and Lodging (New York: Abbeville Press, 1986), and Sign Language: Street Signs as Folk Art (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1996)—John Baeder continues to live and work in Nashville, Tennessee, his home since 1981.

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January 9, 2008

Pleasant Journeys and Good Eats along the Way: A Retrospective Exhibition of John Baeder

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