Face it (2021)
The paintings of Monika Baer, winner of the 2020 Hannah Höch Prize, operate at the intersection between figuration and abstraction in positively paradigmatic fashion. Whether in her searching engagement with the painting as stage, an undertaking she began in 1995, or in later series such as “In Pieces” (2013–2015), which features the detritus of nocturnal revelries or, more likely, a solitary bender – beer bottles, banknotes, cigarette butts – or, as in Baer’s most recent works, trees and tree stumps monopolize the viewer’s attention in a painterly performance of the artist’s formal procedures. Baer’s emphasis on the physicality of her motifs and, more importantly, on the bodily quality of the staging is evident – both in intimations of isolated gestures and objects and also in the focus on silhouettes, outlines, and areas of blurring. In her edition, titled “Face it” (2021), the fleeting cobalt blue is the protagonist. The figurative rhetoric is underscored by a coin placed upside down on the right edge of the picture: a dime, the US ten-cent coin that features Franklin D. Roosevelt – ardent supporter of liberalism and architect of the New Deal – along with the inscription “LIBERTY.” As much an accessory as a hard fact, the coin calls for the titular reality check.