Progressives everywhere were shattered: How was it possible that a demagogic, thin-skinned, petty — and c’mon, the man is a congenital liar! — how was it possible that this charlatan had been elected president of the United States of America?
Welcome to 1968. Richard M. Nixon won the White House by less than 1 percent of the popular vote. During a 1971 discussion with National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger, Nixon griped that the members of his cabinet, including a young Donald Rumsfeld, “don’t know what the hell they’re talking about!” This observation, along with other salty insights from Oval Office recordings of our most Shakespearean president, provides the dialogue for R.C. Baker’s 9-and-half minute animation, “President: ‘Why?’ ”
The animation was created from approximately 3,600 “degeneration prints,” a selection of which will be on view in a mural-scale installation, along with posters and assemblages. The source materials for the degeneration prints are thumbnail reproductions of head-shop posters advertised in early-1970s comic books, distorted by cheap printing techniques. Baker’s process, which he terms “painting by other means,” pushes these flaws over the border between recognizable imagery and abstraction, revealing the towering ideals of the ’60s as battered and degraded, yet still beautiful.
R.C. Baker is an artist and writer who lives and works in New York City. He is a New York Foundation for the Arts Painting Fellow whose work has been exhibited at Baahng Gallery, ZONE: Contemporary Art, the Drawing Center, White Columns, the Center for Book Arts, and other venues in New York City, as well as internationally. Baker is a senior editor at the Village Voice and a visiting artist at NYU Steinhardt School of Painting. In 2016 he was awarded a Creative Capital | Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant for Short-Form Writing.