The Paper Nautilus
September 7 – October 26 2014
Bureau is pleased to open the 2014 fall season with Erica Baum’s exhibition, The Paper Nautilus. Baum has become internationally known for her photographic work mining found printed sources for text and image. This exhibition presents work from three distinct series primarily focusing on the debut of Stills; works revealing Baum’s juxtapositions of fragmented images and silhouettes of text. These newest works are contextualized and complimented by the Viewmasters (2011) as well as two new works from the on-going series, Naked Eye. All three series are excellent examples of Baum’s practice of taking straight photographs of found printed material, and her surprisingly poetic and evocative results.
Utilizing the mechanical techniques of her Dog Ear and Blanks series, works in the new Stills are similarly composed through the simple operation of folding down the corner of a book page. In those earlier series, Baum’s corners disclose found concrete poetry and elegantly textured geometric abstractions. The Stills focus on fractured imagery and thus relate to Baum’s cinematic Naked Eye works in which fanned-out paperback pages reveal a rhythm of sliced pictures. This expanding aesthetic demonstrates Baum’s consistent skill for unearthing abstract beauty from within the printed page. The Stills are a suite of slightly uneven, bisected squares composed of blown-up halftone illustrations and forms framed by toothy paper grains from the books’ margins. The works range from near-pure abstractions to psychologically-charged figurative amalgams. The irregular squares of Shostakovich and Executive Yoga recall Malevich and Albers, respectively; while the truncated but suggestive female legs of Wild Orchid has an uncanny, surrealist allure.
Punctuating the arrangement of Stills in the main space are Baum’s Viewmasters. These larger-scale works are based on the discs of mounted film inserted into the eponymous stereoscopic toy. Rounded, black rectangles fan out radially in place of the original images, accompanied by evocative captions from science fiction and adventure stories. Baum often severs image from text, as with her Frick series (1998), entreating the viewer to imagine unseen works of art described in indexical descriptions. The Viewmasters similarly favor words to illustrate an obscured image.
For Baum, untold stories and images lie within the printed pages of books, games and archives. Beyond the narratives and illustrations that these texts present, it is in the margins and gutters, in the textures and contours of these printed objects that Baum finds her subject. With her incisive eye, Baum culls and edits a witty, beautiful and precise body of work from a seemingly endless library.
Erica Baum (b. 1961) lives and works in New York. Selected solo exhibitions include: Galerie Mark Müller, Zurich (2014); Kunstverein Langenhagen, Germany (2013); Galerie Crevecoeur, Paris (2013), Melas Papadapoulos, Athens (2013); Bureau, New York (2012, 2011 and 2009). She was featured in The Imminence of Poetics – 30th São Paulo Biennial, 2012. Her work is held in the public collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Centre national des arts plastiques, Paris; and FRAC Ile de France, Paris.