Leslie Baum’s Mountain and Sea is a two-venue solo-painting exhibition. It includes an installation at Saint Xavier University’s SXU Gallery on the southwest side of Chicago and a second installation at 4th Ward Project Space in Chicago, IL. The project takes its title and inspiration from a 1952 photograph of Helen Frankenthaler sitting in her studio surrounded by the paintings that would launch her career. These large-scaled paintings, collectively titled Mountains and Sea, cover every square inch of the room’s floor. While created and documented on the floor, these works would ultimately be hung on the wall. Frankenthaler’s immersive and painted environment anticipates two aspects of Baum’s current approach—to make a painting engage with the whole of a space and to place viewers in intimate contact with such a painting.
The exhibition at Saint Xavier University, mountain and SEA, features an immense painting that covers the entire gallery floor. Baum’s application of acrylic paint appears as watercolor, and the work is liquid and luminous. Composed of 12 tiled-together canvas drop cloths, the painting references tree imagery of Ernst Ludwig Kirshner, Paul Klee, Paul Cezanne and Georgia O’Keefe. Baum combines multiple perspectives and even orients a forest upside down. Gallery visitors are invited to walk on the drop cloths, to stroll on a painting that, during the darkest days of Chicago, conjures a vibrant landscape.
The second installation, MOUNTAIN and sea, at 4th Ward Project Space engages primarily with the wall. Continuing to plumb the arboreal landscapes of 20th century painters such as John Marin, Kirshner, and Piet Mondrian, Baum offers the gallery as a meditation space. An equilateral triangle serves as a visual mantra, and the triangle appears in a variety of scales and media, most notably as a large, un-stretched drop cloth painting that reaches from floor to ceiling of the intimate gallery space. The installation at 4th Ward Project Space is the MOUNTAIN to Saint Xavier University’s SEA.