Christopher Baird wrote to Bob Linder that his new show, “Bad Company” at Park Life’s gallery, was inspired by the same sort of paperbacks he uses to make sculptures of stacked self-help books. Maybe you saw them at “Somewhere in the Fold” at the Popular Workshop—they have titles like “Yoga for Men Only,” “Mystic Vibrasonics,” and “Your Subconscious Power.” It’s unclear whether reading the books would elicit cathartic tears or laughter, but, either way, that kind of reading material is a cry for help. In “Bad Company,” a huge, graphic, glossy enamel painting of a book’s cover, “Untitled, (Suffering)” sets the tone. Suffering, or dissatisfaction, is the first of Buddhism’s Four Noble Truths. Self-help books are all about fixing or transcending dissatisfaction, but so is robbery and drug use—we’re all just trying to get somewhere better.
To see Baird’s paintings on the walls, you have to step into, or onto, “Wade-ing through the Blackness (Floor).” Having apprehension about looking into the void or stepping on this painting is natural; taking a look at the self that perpetuates suffering is almost always initially unpleasant, but we’re all already in that ocean, so step on in. Baird’s paintings in enamel and poster board are graphic and precise. But there’s a wabi-sabi, (acceptance of imperfection), in the hairs stuck in the surface, visible underdrawing, and errant flecks of paint. People need wabi-sabi about themselves or suffering becomes overwhelming; Baird is technically gifted but leaves the detritus where it lies.
Christopher Baird’s “Bad Company” is on view at Park Life’s gallery though February 28, 2013.