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Commentary Anthony Baab

Commentary Anthony Baab

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Published by Blair Schulman
Review of artist Anthony Baab for Cupcakes in Regalia.
Review of artist Anthony Baab for Cupcakes in Regalia.

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Categories:Topics, Art & Design
Published by: Blair Schulman on Feb 25, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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02/25/2013

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<< BACKCONTACTSEARCHFACEBOOKTWITTERAnthony Baab, etraphy fore, 2012, inkjet print, photo, E.G. Schempf.
 Anthony Baab
Installations
at Grand Arts Exceed All Expectations
Grand Arts1819 Grand Boulevard816-421-6887Kansas City
 Anthony Baab A Strenuous Nonbeing 
January 18-March 30, 2013By BLAIR SCHULMAN
 Anthony Baab’s long awaited exhibit at Grand Arts is both intriguing and maddening in itsprecision. He brings us textbook genius thatreads precisely the same way. There is greatdexterity to be found in the processes andideology that is a focus of the artists’ systemictechnique. The exploration Baab offers is taut asa drum, leaving nothing to chance. This work ismasterful, intricate and has me confronting myown anxieties about space and time.Buckminster Fuller could go hog wild in thegallery while I sit in a corner and suffer a crisis 
 
Anthony Baab,
 patristic isizons
, 2012, inkjet print.
 of ignorance.Utilizing cardboard, bamboo, tape andZomeTool® kit pieces (“The building toy for kidsand Nobel prize winners”!) ideas areconstructed, de-constructed and documented ininfinitesimal details. On one hand, it is a relief tonot be surrounded by the strictures of anyspecificity of physical appearances. Barring theFritz Lang (or Kurt Schwitters) referencing thatcomes to mind, we are presented with anetherworld of noir-like lighting and shadows.Conversely, it is this darkness that forces theaudience closer to these images, searching for any signs of life within these stagedmanifestations that also keeps us at arms’length.The one piece which I have been able to readpast the pure mechanics and therefore afavorite, is may exesori (decollage on layeredinkjet prints, 2012). Stare at something longenough and you eventually conjure upsomething, but I may have discovered Romannumerals supporting one of the levels (V, X, IX,V, V). Look closely and you will find them. In thespiritual world of numerology they add up to 34,which splits back to 3+4 and finally 7. Yes, moremath. The divine relationship of this number isthat of seeker, or searcher of Truth. It is alwayslooking for underlying meanings and hiddentruths and a reality that is hidden behindillusions. Persons whose numerological chart isdominated by the number 7 are seen as an“intellectual explorer of the obscure…interestedin the metaphysical, not because they arebelievers, but because it allows access to theambiguous, abstract world of questions for which there are no clear answers.” It is a fittingdescription of what this exhibition represents.The craftsmanship comprising
 A StrenuousNonbeing 
is removed from scrutiny andpresented as a video feed in a darkened galleryand broadcast from an undisclosed cavesomewhere in Kansas City. This is the one idea Ifully expected to see live in the gallery anddidn’t. I also believe it is here that Baab holdsback. This was a lost opportunity to see in theround what he so completely worked out anddocumented meticulously throughout the exhibit.The forced banality of the video feed referencesWarhols’
Empire
(1964) as Baab himself remarks in an artists’ talk he gave following theshow opening. The addition of several cats(babysat and protected by a cat wrangler toquell any animal cruelty concerns) wandering inand around the 14-foot piece, are a crossbetween modern art cat furniture and an ancientEgyptian tomb. This piece is unlike
Empire
, asthe occasional live object appearing in the filmwas happenstance, not contrived. A differentWarhol film,
Couch
(also 1964), might be acloser reference. An inanimate object ispresented as a catalyst for physical interactionand, much like the cats prodded by the wrangler to feign interest (for both the audience and thecats), we are still conscious of the primaryobject. It is where the eye always returns.With
 A Strenuous Nonbeing 
, one can observebut not ogle. We can admire but not participate.This experience, instead of interacting with alive object, is cold and clinical and not all thatcompelling. At such a distance, there is nochance of seeing any error, mistake or otherwise accidental permutation. What could besomething vulnerable and titanic Baab insteadremoves it from the space, like a precious objectlocked inside a glass vault.More questions are asked in
sunndo object 
(inkjet print, 2012). The inclusion of a brick basebrings texture to the fore. It is one of the fewworks that feels anchored with a definitive pointof entry, several in fact. The paddles, or half-circles, that ring the object allude to a possiblesource of energy or that it might take flight.Whereas,
 patristic isizons
(2012, digital print)appears icy cold to the point of near 
 
 
Anthony Baab, Blackstone ixtenten, 2012, inkjet print, photo.
 disintegration. Even with the elements of fire it isnot difficult to imagine that touching it wouldcause an immediate falling to dust. As with thispiece, every work on the walls labors a point;math is good, time is structured, space is infinite.These works are aloof, intricate, and whilechallenging to examine, worth the effort. Theyappear as objects of divinity that pay homage tocivic and transcendent ideas that are somewhatrigid and academic. Spending time with thementails a long, long journey of process andexamination on the part of the observer to getthere. But how will you feel once you arrive?
Anthony Baab,
sunndo object 
, 2012, inkjet print, photo.

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