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Donald Barchler is an American artist who figured prominently in the Neo-Expressionist and Pop Art movements during the 1980s. Barchler grew up in a Quaker family who nourished his early artistic talent. He went on to study at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore from 1974–1977, and continued his education at New York’s Cooper Union.
In New York he befriended the art dealer Tony Shafrazi, who in 1979 founded a downtown gallery that reflected his interest in artwork inspired by graffiti art. Many of today’s leading artists, including Barchler, launched their careers from the East Village art scene of the 1980s. Drawn to cheap rents in New York City’s East Village, artists from nearly every discipline flocked to the downtown neighbourhood, transforming the blocks between Second Avenue and Avenue B into the creative epicentre of the city. In less than a decade, the East Village artists launched numerous art movements united by a sense of punk rock rebellion, but radically diverse in styles, mediums, and aesthetics. In this milieu, Baechler found himself amidst figures such as Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Kenny Scharf.
Baechler is known by his child-like depictions that incorporates iconic subjects, such as skull, flowers, birds, and ice cream cones, each work conveys a feeling of memory without becoming an illustration. Although critics have suggested that Baechler’s work, reminiscent of Jean Dubuffet, is a critique of innocence and sincerity, Baechler instead sees himself as an abstract artist whose concerns are more on formal attributes than narrative, rooted in line, shape, colour, and composition.
Donald Baechler's creative process begins among a vast collection of popular images and objects, the archives of years of photographing, looking and gathering. His paintings are the result of that cumulative process, built in fragments and layers to create what he calls an "illusion of history." The artist cites Cy Twombly and Giotto as his primary influences.
Today, his prints, painting-collage-drawing, and sculpture are held in the collections of the Goetz Collection in Munich, The Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Whitney Museum of American Art, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles and The Centre George Pompidou, Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris among other institutions worldwide.
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