Wed. Dec 7th, 2022

The seven abstract paintings on display in Ever Baldwin’s first West Coast exhibition include a hand-built sculptural frame for each work. Baldwin integrates the image and its external support like other contemporary artists—including Alex Anderson and Stephanie Temma Hier—whose approach to framing becomes a fundamental aspect of the artwork. While Baldwin clearly demarcates the chunky wooden enclosure from the picture, they often make these elements formally contiguous by extending shapes and patterns from the painting directly into the surrounding structure. The armatures are built raw: Grinder marks are visible and nail heads are easy to spot; curves and angles are coarsely crafted. The wood is blackened with soot in Baldwin’s homespun variation of the Japanese technique shou sugi ban; in places the ash has rubbed off from handling.

The images are roughly bilaterally symmetrical and rendered in a style that eschews polish, in harmony with the framing. Baldwin overpaints heavily, resulting in gritty surfaces and muted colors. Yet in places a glowing light source is depicted, wonderfully illuminating the composition’s surrounding forms. There is an echo of Arthur Dove here, often through the suggestion of landscape, though Baldwin’s tableaux equally call forth the human body’s internal and external morphologies. One work suggests a visage seen simultaneously in profile and frontally (A Brave Face) while another put me in mind of an animal’s head, perhaps that of a lioness (Glory, both works 2021).

Yet Baldwin’s point doesn’t seem to be mimesis. This work feels oriented toward the mystical, using organic forms as the pathway to a spiritual realm. The artist has not so much created paintings as votive objects. I imagine them hanging in some cultic place of worship, where the frames have been blackened by generations of candlelight.

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