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Downtown

Over the years Richard Baker’s work has become more refined. The very facility that has lent sophistication makes some of his current works look as if they come too easily.

He first exhibited bright pockets of color skirting around canvases. As he gained control and confidence, works loosened into convincing vaporous grounds whose mysterious depth was abetted by odd forms reeling around in them. Spatial relationships between figure and ground were open to speculation, as were the identities of the floating forms.

Baker’s most recent works continue in this vein but show signs that the tack may have run its course. The suggestive forms--large distracting rectangles of color in “Cooling Zone,” a big kelly-green bar-belled bone shape in “Stations"--all but overrun Baker’s substantial skill at painterly abstraction. These no longer hold our attention or get us asking what they might mean, nor are they so visually appealing as to pull us in on straight pictorial grounds. A few works that move unabashedly toward representation indicate a new, powerful direction. In “Moonblind,” Baker uses silvery turquoise highlighted with white to sketch in the quick contours of a horse. Over this dreamy Susan Rothenberg image, cast on a field of nocturnal blues, Baker paints flush to the picture plane objects that look like spools suspended in zero gravity. In the equally fine “Pond” and “Clearing,” Baker shifts from the equivocation sensed in other works to rich pictorial and narrative evocation. (Cirrus, 542 S. Alameda St., to May 20.)


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