A Long Dress
What is the current that makes machinery, that makes it crackle, what is the current that presents a long
line and a necessary waist. What is this current. What is the wind, what is it.
Where is the serene length, it is there and a dark place is not a dark place, only a white and red are black, only a yellow and green are blue, a pink is scarlet, a bow is every color. A line distinguishes it.
A line just distinguishes it.
-Gertrude Stein, Tender Buttons
Bureau presents the fifth solo exhibition with Erica Baum, A Long Dress.
This exhibition debuts Baum’s Patterns, a new series of photographs capturing the textures, contours and words from twentieth century sewing patterns. Baum’s oeuvre over the past twenty years has focused on composing images of found poetry located in the folds of printed material. Her latest subject matter is the paper templates and accompanying booklets which were industrially-produced for the home tailor.
The exhibition opens with Edges Fold Fold, one of several large works depicting the diagrams and measuring guides from these illustrated booklets. This work–with its jumble of numbered shapes and staccato list of words–introduces the abstract language and rhythm of the series. In the main gallery, two groups of smaller photographs focus on the gauzy, folded paper templates themselves, capturing concrete poetry in the creases and cut-lines, punctuated by terse directive phrases. Arrows point where to Place or Fold; a suggestive curve is interrupted by the Hem; a bold ‘X’ marks the spot of the Cintura, the Spanish word for waist. These geometric poems hint at the constriction that the diagrammed garments might impose on their wearer. The mannequin pictured in the work Shoulder–the only human form depicted in the exhibition–stares blankly, her body gridded with numbers. Several of these larger images spotlight uncanny, inanimate subjects. A teddy bear-like form in Bunny has its arms stretched wide revealing a lone thread left dangling, the image punctuated by a single inverted word: seam. A possessed-looking rabbit is accompanied by a description of what ails it in Turn Head Right Side Out.
It is fitting that Baum chose to title her exhibition after Gertrude Stein’s poem A Long Dress from Tender Buttons. Stein has been an important influence on Baum, and many affinities can be found between their work, from their textual repetitions and rhythms to their observation and appraisal of the mundane. A Long Dress by Stein seems to describe the same variable line that Baum captures. Each relishes the wordplay of a current that both buzzes and dictates, and a line which can contour a waist or parse a phrase.
Erica Baum (b. 1961, New York) received her MFA from Yale University in 1994 and her BA in Anthropology from Barnard in 1984. Recent museum exhibitions include The Swindle: Art Between Seeing and Believing, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; Lever le voile, Frac île-de-france, Paris; The Arcades: Contemporary Art and Walter Benjamin, The Jewish Museum, New York; Photo-Poetics: An Anthology, Kunsthalle Berlin and Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; Reconstructions: Recent Photographs and Video from the Met Collection, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Recent solo and two-person exhibitions include Naked Eye Nature Morte, Galerie Crevecoeur, Paris; AAa:Quien, Erica Baum & Libby Rothfeld, Bureau, New York; The Following Information, Bureau, New York; Stanzas, Galerie Crevecoeur, Paris. Selected biennials include; AGORA 4th Athens Biennale, Athens, 2013 and the 30th Bienal de São Paulo: The Imminence of Poetics, São Paulo, Brazil, 2012. Her work is held in the public collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; Centre National des Arts Plastiques, Paris; FRAC Ile de France, Paris; and the Yale Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut.all images © the gallery and the artist(s)