Michael Bauer

A mad tea party of paintings

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Initially catching our eye at the recent NADA NYC fair, Michael Bauer has made an impression in the European art market for years with his energetically moody compositions. The German artist recently set up shop in New York, and in celebration of his move from Berlin to NYC he is holding his first solo show at Lisa Cooley Gallery, dubbed “H.S.O.P. – 1973“.

Bauer spent much of 2012 experimenting with collage and drawing, a practice that has invigorated his new paintings with what the gallery calls an “openness, dynamism, lightness and mischievous humor” not seen in his previous work. Still, certain elements from his early career remain, most notably his small, meticulous markings and his predilection for highlighting and obscuring physical deformity. According to the Saatchi Gallery, “Bauer uses the qualities of abstract painting as a deviation of representational portraiture, allowing the media to replicate the characteristics of physical matter.”

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Even as his compositions become tighter and more centralized, Bauer seems consumed with making figurative elements from the marking of his medium. He describes the work in “H.S.O.P – 1973” as “portraits of gangs, families, music bands, collectives, or mobs—a grouping of characters revealed through the occasional eye or profile emerging from shadowy abstraction. Flat, crisp, bright, patterns usually provide the structure from which these organic nebulas originate.”

The title for the exhibition is a little obscure, and Bauer calls “H.S.O.P.” an “arbitrary reference” to the Hudson River School of painting, and because there’s a foot or foot-like shape in each painting, the accompanying numbers indicate European shoe sizes. The other elements aren’t quite so random. Bauer adds circular shapes to the corners to make them more like playing cards, with each painting like a “character in an unfolding cast, a mad tea party of sorts.”

H.S.O.P. – 1973” is on view at Lisa Cooley Gallery through 17 June 2012.