CHICAGO, IL.- The Art Institute of Chicago
is presenting the first museum exhibition in the United States devoted to the work of Berlin-based artist Monika Baer. This presentationon view in the Abbott Galleries (Galleries 182184) in the museums Modern Wing from October 24, 2013 through January 26, 2014 includes nearly 30 paintings created between 1990 and 2013. The selection of canvases and their nonchronological groupings reflect the emphatic diversity of subject matter and the stylistic and material explorations of Baers practice. Often called both conceptual and performative, her paintings are simultaneously spare and sensuous, oscillating between revealing and pretending to reveal themselves.
Baer studied painting at the internationally renowned Düsseldorf Art Academy from 1985 to 1992, a time when photography had been the prevailing field of study for nearly a decade. Meanwhile, the medium of painting was decidedly male dominated in Germany, and Baers early work evidences that tension: she was an artist compelled to make paintings but as if without relevant models for what those paintings should be in that moment, in that place, and by her hand.
Shortly after leaving the academy, Baer received recognition for a series known as the Mozart paintings, two of which are in this exhibition. Highly stylized, rendered in elaborate rococo detail, and almost cinematic in scale, these paintings act as a foil for the more abstracted work that would follow.
Across the subsequent 15 years, Baers idiosyncratic practice has been characterized as romantic, conceptual, and Surrealist-inflected. Baer moves fluidly through a wide range of subjects and recurring motifskeyholes, spider webs, brick walls, and paper currency, for instance. She also typically works in series that overlap and inform one another, including vampire pictures (2007), breast pictures (200709), monochromes (200810), and works that have been described as paintings on walls (200912). Her most recent exhibition in Berlin contained realistically rendered metal chains and red brick walls painted with a variety of gestures, as well as heavily impastoed monochromes with small keyholes lightly floating on the surface. As Baer steadily develops new technical, formal, conceptual, and contextual challenges to her own painting, she also evades tidy critical responses.
The subjects of Baers paintings at times intentionally push up against her own standards of taste: if the artist is not sure whether she likes what she is depicting, then the painting has to work that much harder to resolve itself. Baers singular practice might be best understood as a torrid love affair with the medium of paintingwith all the pleasure and pain that such a relationship entails.
Monika Baer (German, born 1964) lives and works in Berlin, Germany. She has had recent solo exhibitions at Galerie Barbara Weiss, Berlin (2012 and 2009); Richard Telles Fine Art, Los Angeles (2011 and 2008); and Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zürich (2009). In 2006, the Bonnefantenmuseum in Maastricht organized a retrospective of her work, which later travelled to the Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich, and the Ausstellungshalle zietgenössische Kunst, Muenster. In 2007 Baer participated in Documenta 12 in Kassel.