Arts and Entertainment | Art

Luxembourg & Dayan presents first New York exhibit on Italian neo-avant garde artist Enrico Baj

Grotesque lounging button-eyed faces scowl at viewers from wallpapered canvases, flashing rows of pointed teeth, in Luxembourg & Dayan’s new exhibit on Italian artist Enrico Baj. One can also see mountains standing against patterned textile skies, and pink-skinned humanoid bathers against a rippled, pointillist background in a mutant caricature that pays homage to Georges Seurat’s masterpiece “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.”

As eccentric as they are, Baj’s compositions of both medium and subject are remarkably mundane and almost reminiscent of a child’s craft project.

“There is certainly a kind of naïveté in the choice of subject matter, a simplification that’s meant to draw more attention to the materials and how they function,” curator Tamar Margalit said. “It comes at a time when artists are making very abstract art with theory-heavy ideas behind it. Instead of piling up significance, [Baj] strips down everything and focuses on what [he sees].”

Baj is no more conventional than his creations. Although he was born in Milan, Baj fled fascist Italy in 1944 to avoid conscription. He returned to Milan after World War II, publicly embraced anarchism, and became a central figure of the Italian neo-avant garde, a group of experimental and innovative art movements that included Dada and situationism. The exhibit at Luxembourg & Dayan is the first time Baj’s work has been displayed in New York.

“[Baj’s work] feels very relevant to what artists are making now, especially younger artists. He uses a lot of motifs and materials that now artists are increasingly looking at,” Margalit said. “He worked in collaboration with a lot of artists, but he was very idiosyncratic always. He followed his own vision and was true to himself and not necessarily the trend or what was considered the bon temps of the time.”

Central to Baj’s thoughts on art was his refusal to settle for a signature style. Unlike some of his contemporaries, Baj preferred to associate himself with a wide range of art movements, sometimes stitching together styles that at first glance seem diametrically opposed to each other. This defiance of any particular signature style stemmed from Baj’s criticism of the overall commercialization of art.

“Enrico Baj was an artist who kept pushing against the idea of a signature style. He wrote a manifesto in 1957 called ‘Anti-Style’ and he really went against the idea of artists replicating the same gesture over and over again,” Margalit said. “He kept going and going—reinventing himself every time and collaborating with different artists. He really pushed the envelope with what an artist stands for—the variety speaks for itself.”

Notable art movements that influenced Baj include European surrealism and Dada—in particular, Baj collaborated with French surrealists Marcel Duchamp and André Breton. In the 1950s, he worked alongside Asger Jorn, a prominent member of CoBrA (Copenhagen, Brussels, and Amsterdam), an international art movement based on situationism. Similar to the Arte Povera (“poor art”) movement that was predominant in Italy at the time, Baj assembled his works from found objects—commonplace, mass-produced commodities. However, Baj always incorporated his own kitsch emblems into his works, unlike the abstract Arte Povera. As a result, some even characterize Baj’s works as an early prototype of pop art.

“[Both Baj and Asger Jorn] worked with the same idea of salvaging paintings from being a commodity. He would buy a painting from a flea market, usually with the appearance of a very commercial product, and he would subvert it with a gesture or a sign [that he would add to the painting],” Margalit said. “He would claim that it was art, which opens up the question of what is art or in what way does art speak to the realm of commodities—the back-and-forth between high art and commodity culture that was the founding principle of CoBrA.”

A good example of Baj’s technique is the series “Modifications,” which comically juxtaposed Baj’s hellish figures with nondescript images of nude women and landscapes.

Margalit cited Baj’s personal preferences for displaying his works as an inspiration for the setup of the exhibit. Curators took full advantage of the gallery’s location—an Upper East Side townhouse—in order to replicate the low ceilings and non-hierarchical arrangements that Baj preferred. Unlike in most contemporary art galleries, dense hangings of artworks crowd the walls so as to further erase any pretensions the exhibit might otherwise connote.

“It wouldn’t be right to show a small number of works in a white pristine cube. []…[] [We wanted to] illustrate how unique his vision is and how total it is. It’s not just about the one artwork but about the context that you give it and the setting—everything is important,” Margalit said.

“Enrico Baj” opened Nov. 5 and runs until Jan. 30, 2016 at Luxembourg & Dayan.

elaine.jiang@columbiaspectator.com | @ColumbiaSpec

Comments

Plain text

  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
Your username will not be displayed if checked
CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Mary Wilkie posted on

Hi everyone, I'm so excited.
My ex-boyfriend is back after a breakup,I’m extremely happy that will are living together again.
My name is Mary Wilkie from England.
My boyfriend of a 4yr just broke up with me and am 30 weeks pregnant.I have cried my self to sleep most of the nights and don’t seem to concentrate during lectures sometimes I stay awake almost all night thinking about him and start to cry all over again.Because of this I end up not having energy for my next day’s classes ,my attendance has dropped and am always in uni and on time.Generally he is a very nice guy ,he ended it because he said we were arguing a lot and not getting along.He is right we’ve been arguing during the pregnancy a lot .After the break up I kept ringing him and telling him I will change.I am in love with this guy and he is the best guy I have ever been with.I’m still hurt and in disbelief when he said he didn’t have any romantic feelings towards me anymore that hurt me faster than a lethal syringe.He texts me now and then mainly to check up on how am doing with the pregnancy,he is supportive with it but it’s not fair on me, him texting me as I just want to grieve the pain and not have any stress due to the pregnancy.i was really upset and i needed help, so i searched for help online and I came across a website that suggested that Dr Unity can help solve marital problems, restore broken relationships and so on. So, I felt I should give him a try. I contacted him and he told me what to do and i did it then he did a spell for me. 28 hours later, my bf came to me and apologized for the wrongs he did and promise never to do it again. Ever since then, everything has returned back to normal. I and my bf are living together happily again.. All thanks to Dr Unity. If you have any problem contact Dr.Unity now and i guarantee you that he will help you.Email him at:( Unityspelltemple@gmail.com ),you can also call him or add him on Whats-app: ( +2348071622464 ),His website: http://unityspelltemple.yolasite.com .

+1
-2
-1
Jessica posted on

Dr.Unity can help you with real and genuine Love spell to get ex back fast and Stop a Divorce or Breakup.
My bf broke up with me almost 6 months ago. We were dating for about 2 years. We fell out a little bit when he got depressed. Then we patched things up but at the end he told he did not want to commit to anyone right now. After breakup I was begging him to come back. I was desperate and clingy. I know that it was the worst thing to do. Currently I keep no contact almost for three months). I really miss him and I want him back... I do not know what to do. I need some advice. As I was browsing through the internet one day, I came across a website that suggested that Dr.Unity can help get ex back fast and Stop a Divorce or Breakup and so on. So, I felt I should give him a try. I contacted him and told him my problems and he told me what to do and i did it and he did a spell for me. 11 hours later, my husband came to me and apologized for the wrongs he did and promise never to do it again. Ever since then, everything has returned back to normal. I and my family are living together happily again. Dr.Unity is the best online spell caster that is powerful and genuine. If you have any problem contact him and i guarantee you that he will help you. Here’s his contact: Email him at: Unityspelltemple@gmail.com , you can also call him or add him on whats-app: +2348071622464 ,Website: http://unityspelltemple.yolasite.com ..... Thank you

+1
0
-1
Jessica posted on

Hey guys, Get your ex back fast with the help of a real and genuine spell caster called Dr.Unity.
I'm so excited my broken Marriage has been restored and my husband is back after a breakup, After 2 years of marriage, me and my husband has been into one quarrel or the other until he finally left me and moved to California to be with another woman. i felt my life was over and my kids thought they would never see their father again. i tried to be strong just for the kids but i could not control the pains that torments my heart, my heart was filled with sorrows and pains because i was really in love with my husband. Every day and night i think of him and always wish he would come back to me, I was really upset and i needed help, so i searched for help online and I came across a website that suggested that Dr Unity can help get ex back fast. So, I felt I should give him a try. I contacted him and he told me what to do and i did it then he did a (Love spell) for me. 28 hours later, my husband really called me and told me that he miss me and the kids so much, So Amazing!! So that was how he came back that same day,with lots of love and joy,and he apologized for his mistake,and for the pain he caused me and the kids. Then from that day,our Marriage was now stronger than how it were before,All thanks to Dr Unity. he is so powerful and i decided to share my story on the internet that Dr Unity real and powerful spell caster who i will always pray to live long to help his children in the time of trouble, if you are here and you need your Ex back or your husband moved to another woman, do not cry anymore, contact this powerful spell caster now. Here’s his contact: Email him at: Unityspelltemple@gmail.com ,
you can also call him or add him on Whats-app: +2348071622464 ,
his website:http://unityspelltemple.yolasite.com .
Jessica, 26 years, Texas, USA.

+1
0
-1