Michael Bauer at Lisa Cooley

Though he just moved to New York from Berlin, Michael Bauer's paintings have a thrifty quality that's native to the Lower East Side. Bauer is not exactly sparing with material, but he conveys a raggedy feeling through dull palette, erasure on canvas, and focused use of a tiny brush. The effect is a highly-detailed fog. Only rubbery silhouettes of heads and limbs identify these as tangles of elastic figures. - Whitney Kimball, NYC Contributor

Michael Bauer | Daytona Eagle - H.S.O.P - 42, 2012, oil on canvas, 72 x 60 inches

The main gallery is packed with large-scale, vertical portraits. The sheer volume of such complex paintings counteracts the overall focus-- something a viewer naturally craves in paintings this dense. Clowny feet are a common element. Evenly-toned circles appear in the corners of larger canvases, which Bauer cites as a device to pull you out of the illusionistic space; similarly, stripes overtake parts of the smaller, portrait-sized paintings in the back room. The inclusion of the letters "H.S.O.P" (for the Hudson River School of Painting) and European shoe sizes in the painting titles is reportedly random.

Michael Bauer | H.S.O.P. -  Ambro Gardens - 49, 2012. oil on canvas. 72 x 60 inches

But the reduced abbreviation of "Hudson River School of Painting" does fit this work quite well. The obscured references, the tug-of-war between abstraction and representation, are deeply unsatisfying-- these are intentionally vague, and looking at them doesn't answer whatever mystery we expect to solve when thinking about pictures. These seem to be wondering why we look for an answer at all. It's a cyclical question, but at a time when painting comes along with an artist's statement, a press release, and a biography, it's worth asking.


Michael Bauer was born in 1973 in Erkelenz, Germany and currently lives in New York. He holds a degree from the Hochschule fur Bildende Kunst in Braunschweig, Germany. The artist’s work has been the subject of many solo exhibitions throughout Europe, including Peter Kilchmann, Zurich (2011); Norma Magione Gallery, Turin (2011); Villa Merkel in Esslingen am Neckar, Germany (2011); Linn Luhn, Cologne (2010); Marquis Dance Hall, Istanbul (2010); Anthem, Kunsthaus Baselland, Basel (2009); HOTEL, London (2009); and Kunstverein, Bonn (2007). A monograph on Bauer’s work, entitled “Borwasser” was published by JRP Ringier Press, (2008) with a catalog essay by Jennifer Higgie, co-editor of Frieze magazine. Source: Lisa Cooley

Whitney Kimball is a New York-based painter and art writer.

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