New Finds: Mike Bayne

Artist Mike Bayne lives in Toronto. He is exemplary of an artist whose work in reproduction – because of the size of one’s computer screen, or the tendency of sizes to morph all over the place, in reproduction – tells a tale so partial as to not even fit into what philosphers might suggest are the bright sides of partial tales. In person, Mike Bayne’s paintings are very small, as small as 4 x 6 inches. Encountered on a wall or in a booth, as at the Armory Show (dealer: Mulherin-Pollard, of Toronto and New York), they are guidance as to why looking, looking closely, is the thing for which there is no substitute in approaching art. Bayne’s small paintings have been compared, because we are comparative critters, to snapshots or greeting cards. He takes snaps of things he sees, and then he paints them exquisitely, so finely that you have to stand close to see the brushstroke. What they are, are tight, closely framed views of something that has been selected out of the world of panorama or distraction, for its thereness. The side of a house that has one dormer attic window and another window on the ground floor. The front of a house in clapboard or aluminum siding, seamy in the way we say when we mean, poor, moreover reminiscent of early Dan Graham. The back of a parked station wagon. The side of a truck jimmied with blue flatbed panels abutting the red cab. Of course, all these theres are somewhere, just as signs at places (“New China Doll”, “Liquor”, “Custom Framing”), tell you that you’ve arrived at a where, were you looking for the place. Then there are Bayne’s portraits of faces which universally stop at the neck, and are frontal. They have distinct appearances as a figure in a Franz Hals tavern, ruddy with drink, has a distinct appearance. Yet their ordinariness and even frequent discomfiture, is as hard to ascribe meaning to as the artist’s work overall, is. He told an interviewer that he is most frequently asked why he paints what he does. A question we (collectively) really ought to stop asking for how should any one of us know the why of attraction or fascination or even inertia, and what would it help should one labor to explain?


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