Jo Baer, Untitled, 1968-9, oil on canvas.
72 x 72 in. Signed and dated on the reverse.*
In 2002 the DIA Art Foundation presented Jo Baer: The Minimalist Years, 1960-1975. In her introduction to the catalogue, the curator Lynne Cooke quotes extensively from a letter written by Baer in 1967 to Robert Morris describing her work and concept. Her description helps to explain why this painting is an icon of the minimalist aesthetic.
"A painting is an object which has an emphatic frontal surface. On such a surface, I paint a black band which does not recede, a color band which does not obtrude, a white square or rectangle which does not move back or forth, to or fro, or up or down; there is also a painted white exterior frame band which is edged round the edge to the black. Every part is painted and contiguous to its neighbor; no part is above or below any other part. There is no hierarchy. There is no ambiguity. There is no illusion. There is no space or interval (time)."
"Consider paint a film of light reflecting/absorbing material, and a colored paint a material which gives a particular, characteristic transmission of light via differential absorption and reflection. Call this reflected quality 'luminance' and measure it in millilamberts. This measure is as real and present as height, breadth, depth; and I find the phenomenon equally sumptuous and convincing. . . . Painted light, not color, not form, not perspective, or line, not image, or words, or equations, is painting. I make paintings which do not represent light, they are light."
Jo Baer (Josephine Gail Kleinberg) was born August 7, 1929 in Seattle, Washington. She attended the University of Washington, Seattle from 1946 – 1949 and majored in Biology. In 1950, Baer moved to New York where she studied perceptual psychology and philosophy at the New School for Social Research from 1950 " 1953. During the summer of 1962, she began her first mature series of work and also met fellow artists Dan Flavin and Donald Judd. She was soon included in several seminal exhibitions with such artists as Judd, Flavin, Stella, Ryman, Lewitt, and Martin. In 1975 the Whitney Museum of Art organized a midcareer retrospective. Shortly after, Baer immigrated to Ireland and in 1984 she moved to Amsterdam where she still lives.