17 June 2024

The Depth of Erasure

Rush Baker delves into archives to
connect history to today


by Kate Mothes

One traditional way of viewing the process of painting is to think of the ways it is layered onto a surface. “Recently, I’ve been more interested in the gesture as eraser and the act of covering up as opposed to building up,” says Rush Baker IV, “both in terms of the representational aspects of my work and the formal qualities on the surface of the painting. There’s a directness in this approach that intrigues me.”

Baker researches digital and physical archives for images of landscapes or depictions of places in which historical events occurred. He is particularly interested in areas and landmarks related to the geographical demarcation between the northern and southern regions of the United States known as the Mason-Dixon Line, which was surveyed between 1763 and 1767. The line constituted parts of the borders of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, and West Virginia, with the largest stretch along the southern Pennsylvania border eventually considered to be the boundary between the slave states of the South and the free states of the North.

Alongside photographs or illustrations of specific periods, the artist collects vintage postcards, old magazines, and other historical documents and ephemera that evoke salient narratives that unfolded during the 18th and 19th centuries as the U.S. grappled with division while it quickly expanded west. “Generally speaking, I am drawn to moments in history marked by spontaneous combustion of revolutionary political activity,” Baker says. “These are not necessarily textbook revolutions but rather revolutionary acts that changed the direction of human history in traceable, historically significant ways.”

He then prints the images onto grids, affixing them to canvas with wheat paste, then elaborating with plaster, concrete, paint, and resin. This initial process of layering and blending different media “not only adds complexity to the visual experience but also symbolizes the intertwined narratives of history and modernity, destruction and reconstruction,” he says.

Several of these works will be on view as part of Baker’s solo exhibition Throughlines with Future Gallery in Berlin, which continues through July 13. Find more on the artist’s website and Instagram.

Blockade, 2024. Acrylic, resin, paper, plaster on canvas
All Quiet, 2024. Acrylic, resin, paper, plaster on canvas, 40 x 30 inches
Ascension, 2024. Acrylic, spray-paint, resin, paper, plaster on canvas, 40 x 30 inches
Approaching Fire I, II, and III, 2024. Acrylic, resin, paper, plaster on canvas, 8 x 10 inches (each)
TBT, 2024. Acrylic, resin, paper, spray paint and plaster on canvas, 40 x 30 inches

Header image: TBT, 2024. Acrylic, resin, paper, spray paint, and plaster on canvas, 40 x 30 inches

All images © Rush Baker IV

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