Alice Baber (United States, 1928-1982), Journeying Blue, 1966. Oil on canvas, 39 1/4 x 39 1/4 in. (99.70 x 99.70 cm). Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), gift of Craig Hendrix (M.2009.74). © Estate of Alice Baber.
LACMA’s Curator Notes
A member of the American postwar abstract expressionist movement, Alice Baber achieved international recognition during the 1960s and 1970s. She is best identified with abstract staining, a technique most often identified with Helen Frankenthaler and Morris Louis, but also characteristic of Paul Jenkins, who Baber was briefly married to during the late 1960s.
She lived in France during part of the 1950s and 1960s and it was there that she painted Journeying Blue. Her work of this period shared with her husband’s an overall composition of colorful abstract forms noted for their glowing transparency. However, Baber worked with more controlled geometric shapes, usually ovoids, and applied the pigment by rubbing it into the canvas with her fingers rather than pouring the liquid in large gestural sweeps as did Jenkins. The energy of her paintings derived mainly from the congested yet orchestrated movement, often elliptical, of the shapes, which she referred to as “wind”; often the ovoids were directed towards a brilliant unstained white area near the center of the composition. Sometimes, as in Journeying Blue, her paintings tended toward the monochromatic.
Baber is not as well known as the other exponents of stain painting because she died at a relatively young age of fifty-four and devoted considerable time to teaching throughout the United States (including at the University of California campuses at Santa Barbara and Berkeley), organizing exhibitions of women artists, and writing about art. Her work is in collections in the United States and abroad, including the Museum of Modern Art and Metropolitan Museum.
Alice Baber, Light and Shadow Crossing, 1977, Watercolor, Gift of The Estate of Alice Baber to Art in Embassies, Washington, D.C.
Alice Baber, Through Sleep to Orange, 1968, Oil on canvas, Gift of The Estate of Alice Baber to Art in Embassies, Washington, D.C
Alice Baber, The Path of the Sun Leads to the Piper, n.d., Oil on canvas (can be displayed horizontally or vertically), Gift of The Estate of Alice Baber to Art in Embassies, Washington, D.C.