Current Exhibit
IOWA CONTEMPORARY ART   |   58 North Main Street, Fairfield, IA 52556   |   641-469-6252   |   bill@icon-art.org GALLERY HOURS: Tuesday through Thursday, 12:00 to 5:00pm, Friday and Saturday, 1:00 to 4:30pm and by appointment. ICON is an IRS 501(c)(3) non-profit educational charity. All donations are tax-deductible.
What appealed to Picasso about these ultra swift notations was his a wareness that they did not leave him time to conform to himself or to his own habits. He sought a truth that gushes forth, a spontaneous and natural expression of life, unblemished by ideas for prejudice. “What a good fortune to have been an Impressionist,” he would say. “I would have been a painter in the innocence of painting.” His creative ideal was now, as he said, “to paint as one writes, with t he same swiftness of thought, following the rhythm of the imagination.” From the Picasso III lecture Chagall knew that the visible was not the only nor the total reality. He already had his inner urge to inquire into the invisible by means of the visible–not easily expressed through the medium of strict naturalism; hence she was impelled towards a more elemental use o f artistic media. From the Chagall lecture Loaned to ICON from the Collection of the Geoffrey Baker Estate. 
Silence may reside in stable forms, in tactile space, in verticality, in the softness of tonality. Here, the silence lies more in the depth of the colors. Their sonority, their deep resonance derives from profundity of thought and feeling. From the Braque lecture These images from the Arabian Nights involve a total color saturation. The musicality of his color and his exuberant palette corresponds above all to an internal harmony. From the Chagall lecture The interaction between inner and outer worlds, the ennobling interchange for which the Imagination is the organ of perception, is to Constable a source of constant wonder. Always he seems to be seeking a symbolic language for something deep within him. A language both settled yet robust. From the John Constable lecture Loaned to ICON from the Collection of the Geoffrey Baker Estate.
Chagall has no need to call on the unusual to dispel the banality of every day life, because banality does not exist for him. Everything which is ordinary is simultaneously extraordinary when seeing through his eyes. This world in the center of which he lives has always been an enchanted world. From the Chagall lecture Chagall seeks to liberate the world of objects from their links with everyday life, from a world without poetry. From the Chagall lecture The table-top rears up, more tangible—and therefore more emotive— than lying down: the flowers and leaves form a powerful concentration of forms whose planes interact. The pressures of the background force themselves into a relationship with the vase, which has lost its single viewpoint perspective and expands to reveal to us more of itself. The background comes forward. In modern Art there are no "backgrounds" anymore: Only a relationship between forms—a dialogue. Paradoxically, we find, that despite the suppression of depth illusion, there is an actual intensification of space relationships in condensed form, and a greater urgency and immediacy of getting to the point of things. From the Picasso I lecture Loaned to ICON from the Collection of the Geoffrey Baker Estate.
INTRODUCTION As you view the exhibition, you will notice quotations beside the paintings. These are taken from Professor Baker’s lectures on major artists that he gave on numerous occasions in the Fairfield community. These lectures were very popular and always drew large numbers of attendees. The talks exist in the form of his own handwritten notes, which have been scanned and preserved electronically. The quotations were selected because the painting exhibited here illustrates to a certain extent the theme or perception that Professor Baker was describing in the work of the major artist who was the subject of that talk. It is important to note that the decision to select these particular quotes in combination with these specific paintings by Professor Baker was made by the curators of this exhibition and not by Professor Baker himself. Because he was so articulate about art and is no longer with us to elucidate what his intentions were in creating a particular work, we can only glean from his writings and personal knowledge of his time at MUM what he was inspired by or striving to achieve. And yet, each work stands on its own, and speaks for itself independent of any external commentary. These paintings were painted between the late 1950’s, early in his career, until 1978. He came to MUM in 1979, at which point he transitioned away from studio painting to focus mainly on his teaching responsibilities and talks on art history, literature, and music. Later in his career, he resumed his painting, producing many smaller gouache works on paper, a sampling of which can be seen at Art52. The decision to include these quotes follows from the exhibition in Fairfield in the summer of 2014 where quotations from his discussions on the creation of art proved to be very popular. We hope you will enjoy them.
Each painting by him is a direct response to an authentic experience. Never did we feel more keenly the warmth of Picasso's response. Picasso's imagination had always presented him with an alternative to an Age of Ignorance: the alternative of a simpler, more natural way of life. He encourages us to believe in innocence: throughout his long life his own i nnocence took the form of a submission to what wants or needs to be said. Ever open to experience he allowed his responses free reign, and was himself often surprised at the results. From the Picasso III lecture Painting offers the highest challenge to the painter. To depict tremendous activity and yet to maintain legibility, and coherence, offers him, in his activity as a painter, the chance to find an exact equivalent for his high  status as a human being. To maintain legibility requires clarity of judgement. Coherence in art requires coherence on the subjective level. The whole that is more than the sum of the parts is the same whole that is in the parts. From The Whole is Also in the Parts lecture Loaned to ICON from the Collection of the Geoffrey Baker Estate. 
He often rejects perfection, the consummation of the picture, because he attaches to much importance to variety, to the flexibility of life. From the Picasso III lecture So the importance of beginning spontaneously from a highly coherent state was clearly felt. In such a state, the cosmic computer would do the trick–silently, spontaneously, taking no credit, making no claim. From The Peaks of Coherence lecture True calligraphic expression is carried over into Chinese painting. If the spectator does not ‘read’ the brushstrokes in a picture as they were written, following their movement with his eye –even with sympathetic movements of his hand–his own inner vital spirit will not be stimulated to pick up the 200% that the artist wished to express. From the The Peaks of Coherence lecture Loaned to ICON from the Collection of the Geoffrey Baker Estate.
Every art purporting to represent involves a process of reduction. The painter reduces form to the two dimensions of his canvas… This reduction is the beginning of Art. Yet an art lives on what it brings in, not on what it discards. From the Georges Braque— The Silent World of Forms lecture He works with the same spontaneity as nature herself, without human willfulness. It is a vision so compelling that questions of subjectivity or objectivity, pursuit of likeness, or rejection of it, become irrelevant; the world of the “ painting seems neither to reflect faithfully the physical universe nor to overlay it with a human interpretation, but to have an absolute existence in itself. From The Peaks of Coherence lecture A work of art is not reality: it is a model of reality. The artist is engaged in a constant effort to create order out of the haphazard, to trace a pattern, a harmony. Every art purporting to represent involves a process of reduction. With Cubism we have a graphic device for maximum density of information by virtue of the most economical means. Picasso creates signs that represent reality without describing it. From the Picasso I lecture Loaned to ICON from the Collection of the Geoffrey Baker Estate.
Geoffrey Baker’s Reflections on Art “In the beginning my ideal was of a picture as an autonomous object, a sturdy self‐contained universe, though often the unity was as much psycho‐ logical as formal. It was this idea of painting as the innocent expression of something ‘different in kind’, of a quality of life, barely definable, that seems to contain the whole of life’s dream, that set in motion the idea of a pictorial ‘autobiography’. This isn’t about incidents so much as about the ‘flavor’ of particular situations. And if the friends pictured within often appear comical, that must be to do with the unceremonious nature of my vision. There are several ‘Embarkations for Cythera’—land of Enchantment, a land that lures us all on, for, after all, everything we do has its basis in a constant search for more fulfillment. Young girls are to be seen on donkeys, in rubber dinghies, sitting in impossible boats—a motley crew!—‘riding into the sunset’ in the best tradition of movie jargon. All my pictures were begun in the early 60’s and left not only unfinished, but barely begun. I painted away for about 7 years, then did nothing at all for another ten. However in 1978 I suddenly took them up again. It was like meeting old friends. But in this case, they hadn’t changed one bit! There was absolutely no break in continuity at all. What I want to say is very elusive. I’m still after the autonomy of the picture as a ‘sturdy self‐contained object’, to quote myself, but I can no longer get it! The reason seems to be that I’m not prepared to make brush marks just for the sake of making the picture look like an autonomous object, when a few even hazy marks are enough to evoke what I had in mind. The result is strange: the pictures barely begun often appear more complete than those on which years have been lavished. And I have to confess that I find this in no way displeasing. It suggests that ‘completeness’ can lie completely outside the conventions of art! A few brush marks and, like magic, all is before us. It is the images that evoke a pre‐verbal quality of thought and feeling that fill me with joy. Pictures conceived as pieces of indestructible furniture or as decoration for apartments do not. Again, this may be because I’m no great shakes as a painter, but merely one who knows what he likes! I have a great propensity for happiness, and that is why I choose to paint light, air and space, enlightened children with all the paraphernalia of the beach—all things evocative of that lightness of spirit which is the real hallmark of true happiness. Is this a superficial view of the world? Personally, I think not. All men aspire to happiness, and my world is their world once this aspiration has begun to be enjoyed and made real.” When I was a little boy I liked my toys almost exclusively for their forms and colors. I used to make model aircraft: I liked the German planes best because of the duck‐egg blue/green on the underside of the wings. (The German logic behind this was that if you looked up at the plane from below, you’d see ‘sky’. Seen from above, you’d see ‘sea’, for the top of the Dornier bomber was a much darker blue. This was called camouflage.) A red stripe on a white fuselage would send me into raptures. Colored street furniture, road signs, traffic lights, all had the same kind of effect.
IOWA CONTEMPORARY ART
Braque himself did not pursue the issue. “Why bother?” he would say. “The more one probes, the more one deepens the mystery; it's always out of reach.” And, he added, “if there is no mystery there is no ‘poetry’, the quality I value above all else in art. What do I mean by ‘poetry’? It is to painting what life is to a man. Don't ask me to define it:  it is something that each artist has to discover for himself through his own intuition. For me it is a matter of harmony, of rapports, of rhythm…” For him, it was a matter of being in tune with his own Nature. The self would reveal itself to itself. From the Georges Braque— The Silent World of Forms lecture Indeed, his relevance for us lies largely in his love of and profound knowledge of a whole range of various gaps–and none were more endearing to his particular sensibility than those that separate the darkness from the light –those experienced at sunrise and sundown— those particularly slow-moving moments in time when the gradual, almost imperceptible miracle of manifestation and dissolution take place. From the Turner Watercolors lecture   “Painting is itself a joy,” wrote Lu Chi. “Yet saints and sages have held it in awe. For it is Being, created by tasking the Great Void,” and ’tis sound rung out of of profound silence. From the Chinese Painting (Black and White) lecture Loaned to ICON from the Collection of the Geoffrey Baker Estate.
Hence the conceptual nature of much of his art –an art of synthesis. Always his concern was with wholeness. (This, for the Spanish, constitutes ‘Realism’. There is a saying in Spain: “Blood is sweeter than honey.” Even the truth that is ugly is more beautiful than sweetness without truth.) “I always aim at the resemblance,” he told Brassai. “An artist should observe nature but never confuse it with painting. It is only translatable into painting by signs. (But such signs are not invented. To arrive at the sign, you have to concentrate hard on the resemblance. To me, surreality is nothing, and never has been anything but this profound resemblance, something deeper then the forms and the colors in which objects present themselves.)” From the Picasso III lecture Tradition, for Picasso, presents itself as an unlimited panorama of stylistic possibilities. The various manners he has used are different rays from the same sun. Change, with him, is simply the cyclical alternation of different possibilities— the swing of the pendulum between antitheses and polarities, doubtless determined by a need for completeness, for totality. Such changes are born of the urgent necessity of employing a language adequate to what he is saying, of expressing himself better and more clearly,  so that what he conceives assumes the weight of the irrefutable. From the Picasso I lecture Loaned to ICON from the Collection of the Geoffrey Baker Estate.
His pictures are full of lurking images, scratched in obscure corners of stained glass, peering out of trees, lost in velvety deep blue night skies, swallowed in bouquets of flowers. Tiny figures magically endowed with life. From the Chagall lecture This is no wooly dream world: it is a very exact world, with a keen edge. Yet it is not a narrow world: the poet’s dreams and aspirations encompass the farmyard, but are not encompassed by it. His thoughts pervaded, and extend beyond it. From the Chagall lecture “Nothing” he said, “can be accomplished without solitude. I have made a kind of solitude for myself which nobody is aware of. “ There maybe differences in style, which new impressions pour in to modify. But essentially the same concern lies behind the mask. Art only reveals: it does not conceal. From the Picasso I lecture Loaned to ICON from the Collection of the Geoffrey Baker Estate.
Nowadays, conscious as we are of the dichotomy between the visible and hidden aspects of the personality, between what can be perceived and what lies concealed within, we may well question the assumption that external fidelity is the prime criterion of portraiture. If we do so, Picasso's portrait, in which reality is reassembled to reveal the inner man or woman, will seemed the most profound, most forward looking portrait. Such is the penetrating value of this picture. From the Picasso III lecture Are the clocks, among other things in Chagall’s pictures, codes–to be deciphered as a psycho-analyst deciphers the symbols of a dream–which, as we know, represent unconscious impulses in disguise? Chagall himself has said: “I managed to sleep very well without Freud.” The poet, like the child, sees phenomena in all their uninterpreted magic. Kierkegaard recalls that when he was a boy a patch of green paint on a wall seemed to him a message from the ‘other world’. With Chagall everything is tangible and yet transparent, like the walls in a dream that reveal rather than conceal the depth behind them. There are often very faint perfumes of successive layers of meaning. From the Chagall lecture At quieter levels of the mind different fields of knowledge interact–everything is interpenetrating at those levels–to which Braque was no stranger. And it is this that explains his ability to bring to forms more subtle, profound values. From the Georges Braque— The Silent World of Forms lecture Loaned to ICON from the Collection of the Geoffrey Baker Estate.
Picasso warns us not to spoil the direct pleasure we receive from art by over intellectualizing. Indeed, the only explanations he ever gave about his own work were in the direction of the need for an intuitive response to them. From the Picasso I lecture When the artist has drifted to that level where his needs are spontaneously computed, results blossom fourth in an unforeseeable seemingly inexplicable way, as if the painting were done without the interference or even cooperation of his own mind. Picasso accurately describes his own experience of this: “At the beginning of each picture there is someone working with me. Towards the end, I get the impression that I have been working alone without collaborator.” The computations of creative intelligence are unforeseeable, and rarely those which common sense would expect. They are made on the basis of total requirement, which the discursive thinking mind can rarely if ever encompass. Picasso himself acknowledged and valued highly the purity and freshness of paintings that came to him in this way. “I am pushing them less and less”, he remarked at this time. “If I go beyond a certain stage, it would no longer be what it is. I would lose in spontaneity what I might gain in solidity. I am using less and less color and allowing the virgin canvas to play.” From the Picasso III lecture Loaned to ICON from the Collection of the Geoffrey Baker Estate.