Brett Baker moved, in 2003, from a huge studio upstate to a tiny New York City apartment. He had made large-scale paintings and installations before beginning this body of work, which ranges from small to miniature in size. He still wanted to make large paintings, but couldn’t, until it occurred to him to attempt making “big” small paintings. Duration replaced size – he resolved to work on them until they lived up to the larger works.
They are dense, thick with years of oil paint, abstract matrixes of interlocking marks, rows of vertical and diagonal dashes. The color chords are not traditionally lush or beautiful. They are olive greens, reddish-browns, dark blues and purple – but somehow never murky. We see beauty more than the weight of application. We do not sink into these paintings: the sensation comes off from the surface. It is this quality that is central to Baker’s work: the suspension.
In general, Baker’s work engages the issue of reversing our natural expectations. Baker looked for his mural size paintings to create intimate spaces and have the approachability of the work on an easel. Similarly, he plays with the boundaries and crossover between object (sculpture) and painting. The paintings that comprised his installations were approached from behind, so that you saw the supports before their monochromatic surfaces.