March 2 - April 1, 2023
Opening Reception: Thursday, March 2, 5:30-7:30 PM
Dolby Chadwick Gallery is delighted to present Earth Skin, an exhibition of recent work by Pati Baztán. Living and working in the golden countryside outside Barcelona, Baztán creates large-scale abstract artworks that awaken an intuitive way of experiencing the world.
With their boldly expressive forms and tonal contrasts, Baztán’s monumental works captivate the viewer at a visceral level. Such is the core of her mission: to transport us to a realm that is pre-verbal and categorically authentic. Through her art, we get to bask in unmediated sensation, and commune directly with nature and its elements: the interplay of light and shadow, the give-and-take of erosion and deposition, the ebbing and flowing of water.
Plato’s Allegory of the Cave is illuminating in the context of Baztán’s practice. In this ancient teaching, a group of prisoners believes that reality is solely comprised of the shadowy shapes projected on the cave wall by the light of a fire. One among them, however, has ventured outside into the sun-drenched world and understands that these shadows are merely distorted reflections of true forms; it becomes her mission to enlighten the other prisoners, who remain stubbornly attached to their false understanding of reality. With her art, Baztan seeks to escape the churning machine of society and instead inhabit “an authentic plane, where the forms depend on the background and not the opposite, where head and heart are aligned and what is generated is true.”
A diptych featuring two large oblong circles eloquently grapples with these themes. One half features a black circle against the white of the bare canvas while the other presents the inverse: a large white circle denoted by the bare canvas against a black background. Like a Rubin vase, the slippages between positive and negative space, and between form and background, are inspiring, especially at such a large scale. The black media—a water-based, solvent-free vinyl emulsion of Baztán’s own creation—conjures both a density of tone and fluidity of substance. Its satin-like finish generates a striking contrast with the raw matte of the canvas. Earth Skin, the series title, brings attention to these topographical textures while also gesturing toward another skin that sits closer to home: our own. The composition’s rippling surface can be read as the wizened wrinkles of old age, reminding us that we, too, are organic elements of the earth—fleeting and temporal.
Nature is one of Baztán’s primary sources of inspiration. She notes: “I like to see my paintings as if they were a stone, something that has always been there and is natural—just like that.” As a result, Baztán embraces spontaneity and does not believe in mistakes or censorship. Her process of creation is, fittingly, very physical, simulating the earth’s ever-moving tectonics. She lays unstretched canvas down onto the studio floor, for instance, so that she can move across it and exert different levels of pressure to create a range of textures. Despite the physicality of her process, Baztán also describes it as meditative in nature. This duality which searches for emotions “in the contrast between material density and silence,” foregrounds the relationship between the void and fullness, and considers the difference between belief and true knowledge.
Like sculpture, Baztán’s paintings shift our relationship with space, challenging our habits of perception and our capacity to understand and judge the forms all around us. Many, for example, exhibit qualities found in Richard Serra’s grand steel formations—feats of human engineering that are nevertheless dependent on gravity (they balance without any welding) and subject to the elements (seen in their rusted patina). In one stunning diptych, the black vinyl skin merges with a stunning wash of ochre pigment, creating a strong yet harmonious push and pull of forces. Hints of Brancusi are also evident, especially in the thin gold band haloing the circular white form in the earlier diptych, as if to exalt the earth and all the materials it forges.
Pati Baztán was born in 1982 in Mérida, Spain. She graduated with a degree in architecture from the La Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura de Barcelona in 2008. During her time at university, she studied and worked in Paris and Serbia, where she was also introduced to practices of art-making. Her art has been exhibited extensively across Spain and Europe and been the subject of various prizes and recognitions. This exhibition at Dolby Chadwick Gallery will be her first in the US.