Last Saturday, Shulamit Gallery in LA opened “Mythical Homeland,” an extension of Gary Baseman’s Skirball retrospective, “The Door Is Always Open” (reviewed here). With his painting “Mythical Forest” at the center, Gary brings his father’s story as a freedom fighter in Poland to life with an intimate forest installation. In Gary’s art, a pop culture influence is mixed with elements of his Jewish heritage. By incorporating his characters into his paintings and family photographs, Gary reminds us the important role one’s upbringing has on artistic creation. His paintings mix light and dark, childlike and horrific characters in what can be described as a reimagining of his father’s story of survival.
Portraits and religious mementos are scattered across the gallery’s faux forest floor like breadcrumbs leading the way. The birch tree also plays an important role in Gary’s new body of work, serving as a symbol of protection and endurance. Gary spoke about his parents’ legacy earlier this year at his Skirball retrospective. “My father was a partisan; he was a freedom fighter. When his town was mass-murdered, he was one of the few that were able to escape to the woods and he fought with these Russian paratroopers for about three and a half years. He never told me this story.”
Inspired, Gary created a hooded magi or wise man named “Truth” which appears throughout his “Homeland” artworks. On his travels to his parent’s hometown, Gary wore a magi costume to express that the truth cannot be hidden. Of his characters like “Truth”, Gary said “my challenge is to tell the story through narrative and message making.” Those expecting a nutshell showing of the “Door Is Always Open” will be surprised by the emotional experience of “Mythical Homeland.” Not just an insight into the work of Gary Baseman, “Mythical Homeland” serves to remind us the significance of where we come from.