British artist Glen Baxter is renowned for a unique style of social surrealism in which familiar subjects from popular culture are combined with an absurdist message. In this exhibition of works on paper, Baxter explores a world of illustrated characters engaged in baffled contemplation of modern art and philosophy.
Beginning with his first publications of the 1970s, Baxter developed a distinctive drawing style similar to that of mid twentieth century British comic books, combining images and text using the format of a single cell graphic panel. Loosely deriving material from diverse sources such as pulp fiction, adventure stories, 'foodie-ism', and iconic works of art, Baxter’s surreal scenarios form a playful critique of society and culture.
Baxter works with a number of recurring motifs and personas, from cowboys, schoolchildren and explorers to culinary ingredients such as tofu. The accompanying phrasing recalls 1940s-era film and storybook references, often deriving a surreal humour from the incongruity of image, text and meaning. In this exhibition, two cowboys on horseback examine a black square on the side of a rustic cabin, with the caption And I'm telling you, that's a dang-blasted Malevich! hollered the curator, while in another work, a lone cowboy punches through a canvas with the line For Big Red, it was just one still life too far. There is a subtle absurdity in the drawing He continued to threaten me with more butterflies, in which a young boy hides in a tree from another child releasing a cloud of benign insects; and a characteristic lampooning of fine dining can be seen in a work depicting a couple peering from the window of a submarine, with the caption Derek was always insisting we try out new restaurants.