Bailin Studio


Argus Leader

Arts Beat

December 18, 2008

Jay Kirschenmann

A man in a suit, standing in an office, looks down at his untied shoe. He's so preoccupied with its condition that he doesn't notice the tree that crashed the window nearby. Titled "Shoe,' it's a charcoal-on-paper drawing by former Sioux Falls resident David Bailin. His often huge works are up through March 15 at the Visual Arts Center at the Washington Pavilion of Arts and Science.

Another in the show is "Whittling," featuring a man who has been SO feverishly carving on sticks that he has risen about 20 feet into the air on the shavings. But he's still whittlin' away. accomplishing nothing.

Again, preoccupation. Like the man Bailin drew in “Briefcase.” crouching behind one of many desks in an office, looking at the door, seemingly unaware that a briefcase is on fire nearby.

And in "Map," a man is on the floor, busily drawing the rectangular shapes the sunshine casts on the carpet from the window.

“I think these works are wonderful, terms of the scale, the drawing skills and the content," says Carl Grupp, Sioux Falls artist and retired Augustana College instructor. He took on teaching Bailin as an independent art student in the 1970s.

"He kept asking me to teach him how to paint, but I kept telling him he needs to learn how to draw first," Grupp says after seeing the show last week. "I see he's still at it.”

Bailin went on to get a bachelor's degree in painting from the University of Colorado in Boulder in 1976, and a master's from Hunter College in New York City in 1984.

His current show mixes old and current drawings, many of them huge at 14 feet long by eight feet tall–such a big format that people drawn in the big works are life sized. Those big works come from a time when the Little Rock, Ark., artist had access to free, high-quality paper, and a huge studio. The works are drawn stiff, milk carton end-roll paper from an International Paper Company plant nearby.

"It's amazing paper," Bailin says, "and is virtually indestructible. And because it was intended to be used to contain food; it's acid free, very nice paper."

Other works explore Biblical themes, some told with modern images. But now that he's moved to a smaller studio, Bailin is working on a smaller scale.

And instead of using fine mats and frames, all his work is slashed from the paper with a knife, so the edges: not square. Many still have staple marks where he attached paper to walls, and have notes written in borders.

"This is a new one for us. kind of an unusual hanging method," says Howard Spencer, curator of the Visual Arts Center. "He's the expert, so we're trying David's two-sided Velcro tape stripping method. We haven't used that before."

There's no charge to walk through the Visual Art Center, so take a stroll and check out these huge works.

1: Shoe • 2007 • Charcoal on Paper
2: Briefcase • 20082 • Charcoal on Paper
3: Map • 2008 • Charcoal on Paper