56 x 56.5 cm
Aquatint on paper
Sammlung Museum Haus Konstruktiv
Portfolio of 6 aquatints
The work of Jean Baier (born 1932 and died 1999 in Geneva, Switzerland) is characterized by irregular (color) forms separated by clear, sharp edges. Baier’s paintings, prints, objects, sculptures, and designs for façades and the stage made a substantial contribution to Swiss Concrete Art in two main respects: his treatment of the plane and space, and his artistic use of industrial production techniques and materials.
Baier’s pictures and found objects display an oscillation between two-dimensionality and three-dimensionality – or, as an obituary for the artist in the magazine “Werk, Bauen + Wohnen” from 1999 fittingly wrote, “between representing and constructing space.” In his two-dimensional works, rectangular and triangular shapes form a kind of collage, creating condensed structures that leave only small gaps open – as free spaces in which the compositional tension seems to find an outlet. In his three-dimensional works, like his stage designs that he created for the Théâtre de poche in Geneva, he employs similarly shaped elements and opposing dynamics as in his paintings, succeeding in again creating a balancing act in which moments of tension are generated without upsetting the work’s overall coherency. This special quality earned Baier many commissions for art-in-architecture projects, including his well-known colorful metal reliefs for the former cafeteria of the University of St. Gallen (1963) and the wall design for the Swiss embassy in Brasília (1983).
His faceted reliefs in St. Gallen are an example of how Baier frequently employed a spray gun to apply the paint to the surface – most often sheet metal, aluminum, and synthetic materials. Baier’s affinity for an industrial aesthetic was likely owing to his having originally trained to become a mechanic before teaching himself to be an artist. Baier began to explore painting already as a teenager, and his turn to abstraction was triggered by an early formative experience when he attended a lecture by the French painter Fernand Léger at the age of 19. Four years later, in 1955, he began his artistic career in earnest and was soon represented in many exhibitions. From the 1960s on, Baier became one of the most prominent Swiss artists.