Modernism Under the Radar

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The New York Sun

One of the Hampton’s quietest—and classiest—arts organizations is the Ayn Foundation’s Sagaponack, NY outpost. A chapel-like white cube within a barn across the road from a vineyard, the Ayn is a perfect home for the work of painter Joa Baldinger, who is the subject of her second show in this space in successive summers. Baldinger is an under-the-radar modernist masquerading as a new image painter. Superficial resemblances to Elizabeth Peyton or Fairfield Porter give way to a sense of meditations on color and form closer to Bonnard or Matisse.

Her obsessions with classic sixties movies surfaces in the current show which is devoted to details culled from Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s “Beware of a Holy Whore” (1971). The found realism, however, merely energizes images whose principal charge is essentially abstract. In Oda a Una Estrella, for example, Baldinger’s casually schematic figuration proves the vehicle for explorations of painterly and chromatic contrast, choreographing fatty, effulgent brushstrokes into a dance upon the retina.

What makes these images exciting, however, is the sense that motif is not a mere structure of convenience for a painter who could as easily be non-representational. The painting recalls the excitement of seeing moving pictures. It is as if an isolated frame of film has been stretched open to reveal hidden, inner secrets of color and form.

The Ayn Foundation is usually more closely aligned in scope and sensibility with the Dia Foundation—the Ayn’s president, Heiner Friedrich, was one of the founders of the Dia. The Ayn Foundation has promoted exhibitions in Marfa, Texas; the old Soho Guggenheim; Munich, Germany; and for two years ran an Arnulf Rainer Museum in one of Dia’s Chelsea, New York spaces.

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