Dan Bayles 01.23.08
AUTHOR: MICOL HEBRON 12.01.07-01.26.08 Francois Ghebaly Gallery
Lately, segments of the US economy have been marked by extremes—witness the crash of the housing market, the explosion of the art market, and the ever-increasing cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The $750 million price tag on the as-yet-unfinished US embassy in Baghdad is an intriguing footnote to Dan Bayles’s paintings of the embassy. His debut solo show features nine mixed-media paintings based on computer renderings that were leaked onto the Internet last year. The paintings depict the shell of a large yet unremarkable pseudomodernist structure in the midst of a nondescript landscape. There is no evidence of the macabre decimation that currently marks the region. Rather, the canvases are eloquently formalist exercises, with lines and colors that evoke Bay Area landscape painters like Richard Diebenkorn. Bayles collages tape, paper, and paint with a mature eye for balance and color, creating compelling perspectives and textures that are at first more apt to evoke discussion of painting’s intrinsic characteristics than any subject matter, like a critique of contemporary politics. Yet it is precisely the overt absence of dogma that makes these images particularly poignant. Last year, it was revealed that construction on the embassy was $150 million over budget and wrought with prohibitive structural and strategic problems. When images of the architectural plans surfaced on the Web, they were quickly removed, to allay spotlighting yet another botched component of US operations in the Middle East. Bayles’s paintings historicize the incomplete embassy as a modern ruin, alluding to the irreconcilable gaps between Eastern iconoclasm and Western material indulgence.