Donald Baechler: FISHER LANDAU CENTER FOR ART

Article excerpt

Like Buster Keaton, Donald Bacchler nimbly treads an elegant path between the banana peel of the obvious and that of the obscure; one slip and his work falls into comedic bathos. But, by the merest breadth, Baechler is always saved despite an often cloying imagery of carroony faces, toys, and children's-book illustrations. And, then, after what could easily be an awkward face-off between the artist's self-reflexive subjecr the viewer's awareness of its purely pretextual role, the work alights without fail on the side of refinement and tact.

Baechler first attracted attention in the early 1980s as a member of the East Village phenomenon, a manifestation much influenced by con-temporaraneous German developments. Indeed, he participated in the neo-expressionist/Neue Wilde transatlantic exchange more directly than many of his peers, studying at the Stadelschule, Frankfurt, in 1978 and 1979.

While maintaining his attraction to the scale of Abstract Expressionist painting, Baechler yielded to the appeal of children's drawings and the range of imagery associated with American folk art. Yet there is nothing of the "outsider" in his work, even if the edgy recognition of the faux-naif is ever present in our minds--a kind of warning signal never to take his works too seriously, however serious their execution may be. Typically, Baechler labors his surfaces in a staid, even grimly purposeful and insistently coercive way, texturing the canvas with, among other possibilities, pieces of terry cloth. Such grounds function like broad grayish expansions, dignified formats indifferent to the possible attractions of color, a component strikingly missing from his coyly captivating corpus.

Baechler renders his childlike imagery ever more homely (it seems to me) by carrying it through several generations of degradation. …