Bailin Studio


art ltd.

David Bailin:
"Dreams & Disasters" at Koplin De Rio

May/June 2014

Christopher Michno

Little Rock, Arkansas-based David Bailin has long mined the realms of myth, allegory and theater for his large-scale figurative drawings. As a young artist in New York, Bailin gravitated to theater, becoming involved with Richard Foreman's Ontological-Hysteric Theater, and creating the Abreaction Theater with Geoffrey King as a vehicle for their collaborative works. "Dreams and Disasters, his current show of five new drawings at Koplin Del Rio, echoes that sensibility, His drawings often pit an individual-usually an anonymous male figure against a whirlwind of nebulous forces. His previous series of works featured distraught bureaucrats and mid-level managers beset by the faceless antagonists of the corporation: dense cordons of files, death by paper, and the bewildering restraints of institutional settings. The scenarios were--and still are-loaded with absurdity. Bailin's new works mark a notable leap forward for the artist. While there are still lone male figures struggling against nameless forces, the setting is now a panoply of suburban neighborhoods, semi-rural fields, or tree lined countryside. Yet the drawings retain, and even crank up the tension, with tilting horizons and vortex-like absences. His figures bear the brunt of overwhelming struggle; they take on a Sisyphean quality, bent against the wind, or, in Stream (2013), knocked from their feet by an unruly swath of cerulean blue that zigzags through the foreground with wild energy. The introduction of color into Bailin's largely monochrome drawings is visually arresting, though it is not the only step forward. (The term monochrome here is an approximation--his previous work was made of charcoal and coffee on prepared paper: the coffee gives his work a warmth that is accompanied with a certain grittiness, a smudged, a stained appearance rather than the discrete values of a binary system.) Bailin's new works feel less specifically narrative and more atmospheric. Bailin has talked about how essential mark making is to his process, and this approach is certainly evident in his drawings. The drawings in "Dreams and Disasters" are ephemeral and dreamlike, as the show's title suggests, and the figures and settings emerge out of Bailin's marks-marks of abstraction, gesture, texture, and motion-as if surfacing within one's consciousness out of white noise. In his efforts to accrete images from constituent parts, Bailin adopts a multiplicity of implements, yielding various textures and marks. His works skirt the edge of abstraction and approach drawing as text, and as theater, rich in surface and movement.

Top: Disparate Acts • Plots • 1979 • performance still
Bottom: Stream • 2015 • Charcoal, Pastel, Colored Pencils, and Coffee on Paper