Western Exhibitions opens its second show in its new location in Chicago’s West Loop gallery district with a show of “adventure” paintings on panel by the Chicago-based artist, Carl Baratta. Please join us for the public reception on Friday, October 17, from 5 to 8pm
Carl Baratta’s wildly-hued, multi-layered, tempera paintings on panel are Frankensteins, mash-ups of the art and culture that the painter immerses himself in, from Persian miniatures and European illuminated manuscripts to Glam Rock fashion and Kung-Fu films to new inspirations like Goya, Albert Pinkham Ryder and Midwestern visionary artists. He drops the viewer into open-ended narratives, primarily landscapes, where winds swirl menacingly, plant tendrils rise up from subterranean depths, rivers bend violently and mutant figures do battle or find themselves in desperate isolation. If this all sounds gloomy, Baratta’s color-drenched, intoxicating surfaces make for a lively viewing experience. Liquid strokes of crimson, hot pink and bright orange paint reveal themselves to be terrifying tree limbs; a cavalcade of tiny hash marks juxtaposed against a wash of lavender and silver proves to be scrub near a mountain lake; a massive, scaly yellow blob announces itself as a large landscape and/or some sort of futuristic dragon. In addition to Baratta’s sublime paint and color handling, he utilizes glam rock looks from the Seventies and rubber suits from Japanese monster movies to undercut the heaviness.
Baratta is striving for both a visual and psychological place of unrest, where the narrative isn’t fixed and neither are the spatial conventions of the landscape. Mountains soar, rivers bend, rushing water pulsates, caves envelope figures, yet the picture plane itself is flat, in a sense, leveling the playing field, assigning specific elements such as warring mutants, dancing glam rockers, mountains, trees, dales, valleys and bodies of water as equal partners in a psychological unease.
This is Carl Baratta’s first solo show in Western Exhibitions main gallery, after participating in a two-person with Iva Gueorguieva in 2007 and group shows at the gallery. Recent shows have included a solo at Vox Populi in Philadelphia and group shows at the Carl Berg Gallery in Los Angeles, Lump Gallery in North Carolina and Green Lantern in Chicago. Baratta received his MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2005 and currently lives and works in Chicago.