Rushern Baker IV’s abstractions emerge from the chaotic world outside the canvas; the urban and suburban environment upended through steady degradation: bricks, plaster, metal and cement form the landscape as the built environment dissolves within its composition. These abstracted forms permeate from within the mindspace of his studio located in the suburbs of Washington, D.C.
Fascinated by political theater and the socio-economic ramifications of domestic and foreign policy, Baker cites structural breakdown as a recurring theme within his practice. If these paintings can engage with the world today, it is through the complex feeling of vulnerability happening everywhere, every minute.
Baker’s work seeks to describe the fragility of global order and modern democracy, evoking feelings of disturbance, curiosity, and awe. The threats of the unknown are balanced by the opportunities that emerge from the confluence of chaos and human innovation.
These threats are realized by fears of a revived Red Scare, Manchurian politics, environmental destruction through violent indifference, racial animus that haunts the future, alternative facts, weaponized technology, and unbridled income inequality. Baker is candid with his discomfort with these themes, but is simultaneously unable to detach himself from them.
Seeking the art that emerges out of spontaneous combustion, shards of exploding geometric forms and debris interwoven into clouds of smoke create fragments that cast instability as an opportunity to expand our perceptions of our current condition.
In Baker’s most recent work direct inspiration is drawn from comic book and propaganda imagery as well as cannibalized images of past work, that form the building blocks of the painted surface. These references blur the line between the real and the digital, the concrete and the ephemeral, creating a new hybridity that attempts to describe the indescribable.
Outside of societal unrest, Octavia Butler’s Afrofuturist novels, most notably Parable of the Sower, are strong influences and Baker has linked this work to Black abstraction and artists such as Sam Gilliam, Felrath Hines, and Jack Whitten. Facets of Abstract Expressionism and Soviet Constructivist forms impact the work as well, marking each canvas as an edition of an ongoing battle, a saga of conflict and discontent.
Rushern Baker IV born in 1987 in Washington, D.C. He lives and works in Prince George’s County, MD. He obtained his MFA from Yale University in 2012, where he also received the Elizabeth Canfield Hicks Award for outstanding achievement in drawing or painting from nature, and a BFA from The Cooper Union for Advancement of Science and Art in 2009 where he received the same year the Jack Stewart Memorial Prize for Excellence in Painting.
He has exhibited in the U.S.A. and internationally, including solo exhibitions at Hemphill Fine Arts, Washington, DC, Honfleur Gallery, Washington, D.C., and Scaramouche Gallery, NY as well as in group exhibitions at MOCADA in Brooklyn, The Harvey B. Gantt Center in Charlotte, N.C., The Third Line Gallery in Dubai, UAE, Bowie State University, Bowie, MD, Koki Arts and Motus Fort in Tokyo, and Yale University, New Heaven, CT.