The Louis K. Meisel Gallery is pleased to announce Public Information, a solo exhibition of paintings by Canadian Photorealist Mike Bayne. Dedicated to the idea that “everything is worthy of painting,” Bayne brings a cool objective eye and dispassionate intensity to his portrayals of the often-overlooked small-town roadside landscape. Working from photographs, his paintings capture a drive-by landscape that can be found, as he states, “anywhere and everywhere in North America.”
For most of the past decade, Bayne has adopted the 4 x 6-inch format of commercially printed photographs. It is a format of the pre-digital snapshot age when film would be taken to a local drugstore or camera shop to be printed—a format that lends an aura of nostalgia to these otherwise distinctly unsentimental takes on the quotidian landscape. Like photographs in an album, these small works draw us in and focus our attention.
Each of these snapshot-size gems is a masterpiece of miniaturist artistry. The ridges on a tiny drainpipe, a mini-electric meter on the side of house, logos and lettering on a storefront glass door, cars parked down a side-street in the distance so small you almost have to squint to see them—details revealed in the photographs are rendered here with a proto-photographic precision. No detail is too small to warrant his full attention, yet he infuses these miniature worlds with an airy open expanse derived from his cool, understated palette and minimalist sense of composition.
It is the familiar made pristine—an ordered world of clean lines and internal symmetry. The crisp clarity of roadside advertising marquis and precisely delineated buildings and roof lines are set off against geometric areas of neutral color. A peaceful air of quietude pervades, but there is also a disquiet. It is a human-built landscape with no visible humanity. Aside from the occasional car, or perhaps an empty chair on a porch, it is landscape devoid of a human presence. This is a world time has forgotten. The white house with its severe black moldings stares back at us with dignified reproach.
In several recent works, Bayne has approached his signature imagery in a larger format. In these expanded compositions, Bayne’s formalist sensibility comes strongly into play. Clean open areas are bisected by bright-colored linear elements, creating a stunning geometry, a kind of figurative abstraction. “If you are forced to stop and examine something that moment can be transformational,” Bayne has said, adding that he feels “a responsibility to pay attention.” His brilliantly realized, intriguing paintings invite us to do the same.