Jo Baer

(b. 1929)

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(1929– ).

Painter. She remains known particularly for hard-edge abstract paintings from the 1960s and early 1970s. Since that time, living in Europe, she has developed a privately coded figuration that has been little exhibited. Born in Seattle, Josephine Gail Kleinberg studied at the University of Washington from 1946 to 1949 and subsequently pursued graduate work at the New School for Social Research (now New School) in New York. In 1953 she moved to Los Angles and married Richard Baer, who worked in television. There she associated with artists of the Ferus Gallery, while exploring abstract expressionism. After her divorce in 1958, the following year she married Los Angeles-born painter and printmaker John Wesley (1928– ), later known for a personal variation on pop art, but they divorced in 1969. About two years after moving back to New York in 1960, Baer initiated her wholly original work in a sharply reductivist style. Her most characteristic paintings from this period consist of squarish canvases, painted entirely white (or sometimes pale gray), save for a narrow border, usually black with an inner line of vibrant color. Although in their reduced visual content these works suggest early minimalism, Baer sustained important painterly concerns abandoned by most adherents to that movement. Her works remain based in intuition rather than systems, and they are informed by traditional concerns for perception, the limits of painting, and the creation of what she has called “poetic objects.” In 1969 she began to experiment with color bands that wrapped over the edges of her unframed canvases, and in the early 1970s she produced works that feature organic bands of brilliantly orchestrated color swerving across the surfaces onto wide perpendicular margins. She abandoned abstract art in 1975, the year of her retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art, and left the United States to live in England, Ireland, and most recently Amsterdam.

Subjects: Art.

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