Carefully conceived and meticulously executed, Steven Baris’s paintings on panel and Plexiglas explore formal elements of design, color, and abstraction, yielding spare compositions with luminous, textured surfaces. In addition to his abstract paintings in Exurban Archipelago, Baris creates a board game that concretizes his interpretation and visual exploration of exurbia, which the artist defines as a nebulous “non-place” of transit between and outside of cities, suburbs, and the countryside that primarily exists for the shipping and transfer of goods. Baris encourages visitors to interact with his concept of the material reality of exurbia through the board game in which players must navigate these disparate geographic regions.
His painterly 2-D works also reflect the artist’s psychological investigations of buildings in space and landscapes. Baris consistently introduces geometric shapes, including soft black and colored rectangles, polygons, and squares on empty, flat fields. The shapes often appear as simplified architectural forms sourced from satellite imagery (Google Earth derived images) that he examines from multiple perspectives. Through these images, we are reminded of “big box” warehouses and the footprint of large consumer goods distribution centers peppering the American landscape. Signifying commercial development and sprawl, the forms illuminate Baris’s image of exurbia.
Baris’s work recalls the geometric compositions of Piet Mondrian and the De Stijl movement’s emphasis on the simplicity of visual form. His modestly sized color fields are expressionistic and reminiscent of Mark Rothko’s abstracted visualization of the unconscious. However, Baris infuses his work with a hybrid Minimalist and Pop sensibility as well, combining few visual elements to maximum effect using a vivid, even calculatingly garish palette that underscores the implicit downside of his subject matter and the manic consumer logic that produces exurbia.
Gretchen Hupfel Curator of Contemporary Art