The Speed, The Race, The Spectacle

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by Chelsea Coon

"Ride The Lightning" by Kristin Baker

I FIRST CAME TO interact with Kristin Baker’s work last fall. I was immediately lured in by the growing quality of the painting – her works literally emanate light.

The exhibit “Kristin Baker: New Paintings” is currently on view in the Linde Family Wing gallery in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. This is her first solo exhibition in a museum in the United States.

by Chelsea Coon

 


 

The exhibit “Kristin Baker: New Paintings” is currently on view in the Linde Family Wing gallery in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. This is her first solo exhibition in a museum in the United States. Baker graduated from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts (SMFA) in 1998 and received her MFA from Yale in 2002.

"Ride The Lightning" by Kristin Baker

Baker lectured in the new Art of the Americas wing of the MFA Boston on the process and concept behind her work on February 7.

“You really seem to have hit the ground running upon graduation from Yale.,” one of the audience members pointed out to her during the open question session of the lecture. No one can deny that, for Baker had shows lined up immediately after graduation at the renowned Deitch Projects, ACME in LA, and the Pompidou in Paris, among others.

“I’m drawn to the materiality of the medium I use,” said Baker. “I’m totally material driven.” Baker paints on an enormous scale and is set on using untraditional materials. She uses masonry spatulas and painters tape to apply large chunks of color and also to contain them.

 

Baker’s father was a race car driver, so this was intimate subject matter and powerful composition for her to depict.

 

I first came to interact with Baker’s work last fall. I was immediately lured in by the growing quality of the painting – her works literally emanate light. The painting was done on plexiglass, a durable, reasonably thick sheet of plastic in which she “poetically” (as Jen Mergel, senior curator of contemporary art at the Museum of Fine Arts described) applied colors of various opacity and translucency.

“There is a lot of back and forth between the matte surfaces and the glossy surfaces,” Baker explained when discussing her painting “Ride The Lightning“. She laughed, and let the audience know that it’s a Metallica song. Which is typical of her titles. Various works by Baker carry the name of songs she loves. “Back in Black“, a personal favorite of mine, is named after the ACDC song.

While attending school at Yale as well as a few years after graduation, Baker’s work focused on scenes of race cars and tracks. Her father was a race car driver, so this was intimate subject matter and powerful composition for her to depict. She described the sensation of being at the racetrack — the speed, the energy, the spectacle.

“I think of the act of painting as a spectacle but I don’t like anyone to watch me paint,” Baker noted shyly. The work is about “the act of driving, for it is about the speed in racing. It’s about focus and control. It also relates to the act of painting.”

The New York School painters Phillip Guston and Willem DeKooning are among several artists who inspire Baker’s work. The most obvious relation of the two and Baker’s work being the seemingly active application of color — pure color — to create forms and shapes. She is interested in “creating an emphasis on structure supporting an atmosphere.”

The paintings are powerful and must be experienced in person. The show will be on view until March 27.

 

For tickets and more information please visit the MFA website.  The Museum is located at 465 Huntington Avenue in Boston, Massachusetts. (617)267-9300.

 

 

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