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Baker IV blends art and politics

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Photo by Wanda Jackson. Rushern Baker IV talks about his career and painting process at the 39th Street Gallery.

Photo by Wanda Jackson. Rushern Baker IV talks about his career and painting process at the 39th Street Gallery.

Published on: Wednesday, July 31, 2013

By Wanda Jackson

Rushern Baker IV waffled over whether to choose a career in art or law when he was a student at Suitland High School’s visual and performing arts program in the early 2000s.

Public service is in his blood. He is the son of two lawyers, one of whom is Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker III.

But, from an early age, he showed potential and demonstrated talent in the arts.

Baker eventually found a way to do art and politics.

Against a backdrop of his abstract paintings, Baker talked about his career and artistic process at an “artist talk” Saturday at the 39th Street Gallery in the Gateway Arts Center in Brentwood. 

Baker said his abstractions “emerge from the chaotic world outside the canvas; the urban environment upended through steady degradation: brick, plaster, concrete, metal and cement form the landscape as the city deconstructs within its composition.”

Baker’s paintings focus on issues that are important to him, including the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the campaign and the presidency of Barack Obama, the urban environment, human suffering, the crisis of modernity and U.S. foreign and domestic policy.

“The spectacle of war intrigues me — shock and awe, the uncanny,” Baker said. “To describe the unexplainable, I paint a characterization of this experience.

“I seek the art that emerges out of spontaneous combustion. Shards of exploding glass and debris interwoven into clouds of smoke detach global conflict from real pain and devastation, illustrating the effect of combat void fatality.”

Baker has been Gateway CDC’s artist in residence since April.

After graduating from Suitland High School in 2005, Baker earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 2009 from Cooper Union in New York City and a Master of Fine Arts in painting and printmaking in 2012 from Yale University.

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