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Review by Peter Frank

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"Hannelore Baron: Collage & Assemblage"
at Jack Rutberg Fine Arts
by Peter Frank
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Hannelore Baron
Untitled, 1982-83
8 1/2 x 5 x 3 1/8 inches

Hannelore Baron
Untitled, 1978
10 x 8 1/2 inches

Hannelore Baron
Untitled, 1981
11 1/2 x 8 1/2 inches
Physically delicate yet sturdy, the drawings, collages, and assemblages Hannelore Baron left behind when she died in New York in 1987 radiate a sense of emotional fragility and  struggle. But rather  than  acting as mere repositories  for phobias  and  obsessions,  Baron’s  boxes and notations insist that the human spirit can persevere, however damaged. Admired for her  elegant way  with mark  making and  constructing as much  as for her emotional rawness, there is still a disarming honesty to these objects that  aligns the  self-taught Baron less with her peers in postwar art than with outsider artists. A refugee from Nazi Germany, Baron did not document historical or even  personal events in her work, but states of mind, and states of nature. She invested her work with a sense of genteel  decay,  taking  the  Japanese aesthetic  of sabe no wabe a step further, so that the poignancy of dog-eared paper  or funky little boxes bound  with worn cord takes on the sensual irresistibility of much  finer materials. The brown  tone  that  predominates throughout Baron’s oeuvre, in the  stains on her paper  and the  rot and rust on the boxes, does not become a self-conscious reference to nature or even to death. To be  sure, the  inference of both  these elemental forces gives the work a tone  (however fatalistic) of reassurance; but Baron’s brownness quickly becomes something you can taste, something verging on edibility. One comes away from Baron’s objects feeling not depressed or depleted but nourished.

Baron incorporates the  human figure rather  sparingly, rendering it as cipher  or hieroglyph  embedded in  a larger,  but  still  obscured and inexplicable, language. There are few other  references to things in the “real  world,”  the  compressed fields  of vision  taken  up  instead by  pasted in  squares and  squares within  squares (as  if Baron  had compiled  so many  photo  albums  and  was now  recycling  their  half- ruined contents) and skeins of marks that, remarkably, hover between language-based calligraphy, Rune-like carving, and the  scorings found on eroded stones. It is often  hard to tell where Baron has left alone the  original  texture of her  recycled  substance and  where she has intervened with her personal touch.  Baron’s art has been compared to Paul Klee’s; but Klee was a passionate colorist and a whimsical master of brevity. The only thing brief or whimsical about  Baron’s work is its size. Rather,  she can  be  described as part  Cornell, part  COBRA, and part early Bruce  Conner, adept at unlocking her  demons but  keeping them in strict formation—and drop-dead elegant in their scruffiness.      
Currently Exhibiting:
Hannelore Baron
Collage & Assemblage

Exhibition Catalogue

Exhibition Video
357 North La Brea Avenue         Los Angeles, CA 90036
Tel. (323) 938-5222            www.jackrutbergfinearts.com

Gallery Hours
Tuesday - Friday 10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Saturday 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

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Jack Rutberg Fine Arts
357 North La Brea Avenue
Los Angeles, California 90036

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