Bedri Baykam’s 147th solo show, “Still Wet,” will be held at Gloria Delson Contemporary Arts in Downtown LA, California, from April 6 to May 30, 2023.
Baykam, a first-generation New-Expressionist since the very early 80s, evolved his art in various ways, becoming a “cultural guerilla” struggling for non-western artists’ rights and a multidisciplinary artist involved deeply in political activism and political art.
“STILL WET” RECENT ABSTRACTS
Baykam, known throughout his career for his spontaneous expressionist use of paint, alongside his versatile multimedia works ranging from Pop to political hotlines, uses thick mixed-media elements that end up creating several layers that look not only “still wet” but also bring surprisingly a fresh spirit to abstract painting that has been around us since 1913. “Still Wet” mainly features new abstract works on canvas that vary around 6 x 7 feet, all done between 2021 and 2022, as well as 4Ds (lenticular works), paper works, and Art History Map.
ABSTRACTION AS EXAMPLE: BEDRI BAYKAM IN LIVING TECHNICOLOR
By Peter Frank
If Bedri Baykam seems set on recapitulating the sweep of postwar modernism – and the post- modernist contrariness that succeeded it – he is not recycling history just for the post-modernist hell of it. Baykam aims to subvert, even sabotage the artistic discourse of our time (and our recent memory), calling into question not simply the Euro-Americentric canards that have framed – and to a great extent still frame -- the discourse, but the whole notion of what art is supposed to be and supposed to do. Brimming with pastiche, gauche formal decisions, self-indulgent inclusions of slogans, jokes, and graffiti, and other strategic puerilities, Baykam’s painting and painting-related objects demand our attention, and finally our credulity and respect, for their insistent call to rebellion. His work may affront, but it calls yet more to those affronted by the smugness of those who would maintain the status quo. For Baykam, and all those his work calls to, the avant garde spirit is not lost to or in history:
In his last Los Angeles show Baykam presented several groups of work, discrete but overlapping thematically and stylistically. As much ambitiously sized collages as paintings – even when consisting of little besides paint – this work from the early part of the 21st century displayed the artist’s characteristic excitability, cockiness, and deft sense of humor, as well as a subtle note of self- satire and equally one of a (surprisingly) gracious lyricism. In the works now being shown, all realized during the pandemic, Baykam maintains a similar level of bravado, clatter, and orchestrated explosion. His expressionism is now abstract (several figural silhouettes notwithstanding); all that persists of the “real world” and the parodic Pop poses of the earlier work are the hand-scrawled words and phrases, the artist’s signature (sic) indicator that he thinks declaratively and pictorially at the same time, and ultimately conjures a high-density, high-volume style that shouts in the streets and plays to the bleachers. In his highly demonstrative art Baykam remains a man of the people – a politician.
Remains a politician, that is, in the best sense: the change he wishes to effect in art goes hand in hand with the change he wishes to help bring about in life. These days the one-time parliamentarian and candidate for the Turkish presidency is more circumspect about his direct political engagement (especially after coming close to being assassinated a decade ago). But he Is not at all coy about what his art represents beyond as well in the context of art: freedom, justice, solidarity, and the power of creativity.
The freedom factor comes to the fore in the new work. As opposed to the bright, brazen rabble- rousing of the earlier series, these neo-abstract-expressionist paintings exemplify a muscular approach to the act of painting itself. These works do not rally their audience so much as instruct them in how to embody the spirit of liberation, humanistic embrace, and self-knowledge achieved through physical and psychological exertion. Beholding these paintings, we are not simply invested with sympathetic vigor but guided by it toward an active state that is at the same time a state of activism.
For all their subsuming of extra-painterly reference, for all their self-sustaining energy, for all the gleeful tumult that somehow holds them together rather than blowing them apart, these recent paintings by Bedri Baykam do not allow themselves to indulge either their maker or their witnesses. However much they may echo the gestural theater of mid-century abstraction, their splash and stroke represents a choreographing of vitality – and an object lesson in such choreography. We learn from these bold but poised waves and breakers of color how to harness our own impulses back to the human spirit itself.
Los Angeles March 2023