Donald Baechler (b. 1956 – d. 2022) emerged in the 1980s as part of New York City’s East Village art scene alongside such luminaries as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, and Kenny Scharf. Born in Hartford, Connecticut, Baechler studied at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, then Cooper Union in New York City. To briefly escape New York of the late ’70s, he took up an invitation from German exchange students to visit their homeland, where he then spent much of 1978 and ’79 studying at the Städelschule in Frankfurt. There Baechler witnessed neo-expressionism taking hold in what became loosely known as the Neue Wilde movement, which featured German painters disinterested in the dominant forms of conceptualism and minimalism. Returning to the United States, Baechler honed his version of graphic, neo-expressive painting paired with flashes of Pop Art, American folk art, and children’s drawings. With Baechler back in New York, the early ’80s saw his first major solo shows in New York and abroad as he continued to explore brightly colored and thickly outlined foreground images—often flowers, faces, skulls, animals, and ice cream cones—painted over heavily textured collages sourced from scattered ephemera. Baechler cited Giotto, Robert Rauschenberg, Joseph Kosuth, and especially Cy Twombly as major influences. Furthering what he called his “education in public,” Baechler eventually began showing playful bronze statues of flowerpots and large-scale figures in stride. Overpainting, erasure, and intense editing—not to mention a lighthearted sense of humor—remained key to his process thoughout his career. “I’m an abstract artist before anything else,” he has said. “For me, it’s always been more about line, form, balance, and the edge of the canvas—all these silly formalist concerns—than it has been about subject matter or narrative or politics.”
Baechler has had recent solo exhibitions at Cheim & Read, New York; The Kunsthalle Merano, Italy and The Museum der Moderne, Rupertinum, Salzburg, Austria. His work can be found in the permanent collections of various institutions, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Guggenheim Museum, New York; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands; Centre George Pompidou, Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris, France; and Städtische Galerie Schloss Wolfsburg, Wolfsburg, Germany.