Bailin Studio

Drift drawing detail

The Portfolio

1977 – 2023

Drawing and Painting Series:
1985 – 2023

Bailin Studio Logo image

Gatherings • 2022 – 2023

I dislike crowds. They make me uncomfortable. Especially groups of people congregating around a single idea or ideology. They are the Cossacks that terrorized my ancestors and who terrorize us now. This series shows only the gathering. What threatens them is rarely real but it is they who haunt my dreams.

— David Bailin • 2022

Ghosts 2020 – 2021

During the Covid Pandemic, I relocated across the country. As anyone who has sorted, packed, and thrown away 40+ years of accumulation, the move was mentally and physically exhausting. When I drew, I drew in my small sketchbook. Those drawings focused, appropriately, on images of floods, fires, and loss.

— David Bailin • 2021

Fire Cycle • 2019 – 2020

A series inspired by the poem The Fire Cycle by Zachary Schomburg from his book, Scary, No Scary, published by Black Ocean Press, 2009. After several years working on the large-scale Erasing Series, I'm drawing small. The poem, The Fire Cycle, inspired me with so many visual ideas of solicitude and sublime immolation that I couldn't resist exploring his brilliant vision.

— David Bailin • 2019

The Erasing • 2015 – 2019

In his artist statement about his current drawing series, "The Erasing," Bailin, 62, writes: "As an artist who witnessed the waning of my father’s personhood through the dissolution of his memory, I wrestled with how to convey the devastating personal and human experience of memory loss without relying on visual clichés." The answer to that question is revealed in the creative process of the artworks of "The Erasing": draw, erase part of the drawing, repeat, repeat, repeat.

— Ellis Widner • Into The Void • 2017

The Last • 2015 | Self-Portraits • on-going

From his early Holocaust drawings, in which he superimposed symbols of the Kabbalah over scenes of outrage, to his series of Biblical scenes set in the midcentury, to today's erasings, works that reference the loss of memory and personality, Bailin's narratives offer us a way to think about the human condition. We can be cruel, we can be banal, and eventually we aren't anymore.

— Leslie Newell Peacock • Bailin. Criswell. Peters • 2015

Dreams & Disasters • 2013 - 2015

Bailin’s new works feel less specifically narrative and more atmospheric. The drawings […] are ephemeral and dreamlike, as the show’s title suggests, and the figures and settings emerge out of Bailin’s marks as if surfacing within one’s consciousness out of white noise…His works skirt the edge of abstraction and approach drawing as text, and as theater, rich in surface and movement.

— Christopher Michno • Exhibition Review • art ltd, 2014

C • 2011 - 2012

Bailin … presents incidents that mark a transition in ordinary lives–the ordinary lives of what seem to age minor captains of industry or their mid-level subordinates–to something outside the ordinary. Drawn in charcoal (and coffee!) on large sheets of paper, Bailin’s rough-hewn but beautifully detailed pictures present us with men in crisis–that is, men who seem to have grasped that their crises have overcome them and require resistance or escape.

— Peter Frank • Haiku Reviews •, 2012

Paper Trails • 2005 - 2011

[Bailin's] interiors and landscapes made since 2001 are as likely to resonate with texts by Eco or Borges as with anonymous images plucked from old magazines and newspapers. One drawing has its roots in an episode from the story of Winnie the Pooh. Bailin approaches each blank page as if a theatrical space to be occupied, activated. Each sheet becomes the site of a performance—Bailin’s own gestural charcoal dance and his character’s parallel search for a place, a form, a moment of reprieve.

— Leah Ollman • Catalog Essay • 2008

Drawings • 1999 – 2007

…Bailin's anonymous but expressive figures interact directly with the elements, often at some peril to themselves. For all their mystery and even ominous surreality there is an antic spirit to these drawings. In fact, in more than a few of his rough-hewn but detailed charcoals, Bailin sets up man (and woman) as the fall guy for nature's own slapstick brand of humors.

— Peter Frank, LA Weekly, 12/27/2002-1/2/2003

Minyan & Midrash Series • 1991-1999 | Biblical Images • on-going

Bailin's drawings … remain complex and not easily deciphered.…In the end, his works are contemporary: the new context he provides for these psychologically—charged fragments, juxtaposed one against the other, reflects one of the major problems of modern life—the anxieties that arise from the stream of highly-charged emotional situations that arise daily, the desire for the simple life, and the complexity of the questions that arise when one is finally alone.

— Ruth Pasquine • In Search of a Hero • 2004

Early Drawings • 1985 – 1997

Bailin’s paintings are informed and intelligent works of art. Works of art that question the viewer’s knowledge and perception. That question art itself. And, isn’t that exactly what I asked for? […] Bailin’s paintings are heady stuff, powerful and thought-provoking images.

— Cory Dugan • David William Bailin • Number: Spring 1988

Underdrawings, Drawings destroyed or reworked • on-going

David Bailin is famous for alarming curators and museum guards by altering or attempting to alter his own works after they’ve been installed. One minute David is busily rubbing out and redrawing, the next he’s being strong-armed out of the place. But this is a perfectly natural thing to do, as far as David is concerned, since his drawings are never really finished. They are left unfixed and open to revision—even though they flaunt their incompleteness on a grand scale.

— Warren Criswell • World In Progress • 2000

Theater and Performance Art: 1977 – 1985

Bailin Studio Logo image

Proleptic Productions: 1979 – 1984

"Disparate Acts" is an attempt at a form of music theater in which all elements of performance – language, dance, music, gesture, lighting, sets, and space are part of an integrated event, with no element relegated to a secondary or decorative role. The production's structure of abrupt, isolated scenes has been chosen in part to dramatize those unexpected, fleeting moments of sudden realization which occur in daily life.

— John S. Patterson • The Villager • 1979

Performance Art: 1977 – 1979

I moved to New York in the summer of 1976 and I completed a number of large scale paintings dealing with memory, location and material. But I soon came to realize that narrative art in the conceptual 1970s was problematic. As a result I developed several performances that brought my painting ideas into a theatrical space and permitted me to explore in depth image and language. The following performance works were presented during that period at various locations around New York City.

— David Bailin, Theater Promotional Materials • 1978


Bailin Studio Logo image

Epiphany from the studio

My Artistic Foundation

The curious memories that stick with you.

Field Painting 1974
Artist with painting, 1974
Two events shaped my concept about what a great work of art is and what contemporary drawing should embody.

55 years ago, I saw a Bugs Bunny cartoon in which Bugs, dressed in an artist smock and beret, and dipping a large brush into a bucket of paint, paints the Mona Lisa in two passes of his hand. This was an amazing thing to watch. I could never figure out how he did that. Every time I lifted a brush it appeared to be so limited. But later I realized what that joke really meant for the artist: create the greatest amount of significance with the least amount of effort. You see it in masterful work. It only seems like the piece just appeared fully formed and effortless.

© Warner Brothers
While studying art history in Italy, I visited the Convent of San Marco in Florence. Walking into a dark cell from a long sun drenched corridor, it took a while for my eyes to adjust and I noticed that I could only make out parts of a fresco. As I waited for the image to fully appear I made out a crown of thorns, and then a stick, and a bloody gash. And then to my astonishment, I realized that there was no complete image. Fra Angelico had created a painting that every monk could complete in his own way. He had produced the most devotional piece of art I have ever seen.

Fra Angelico
Fra Angelico, The Mocking of Christ, 1439-1443 fresco, Cell 7, Convent of San Marco, Florence(1439-43)

Both of those experiences came to define my approach to art and to contemporary drawing. For me, that meant finding out what was extraneous to image making, discovering how far could I go towards developing a story without losing an image. And that meant no color except for distinguishing form, no printmaking, painting or chemical/digital processes at all…just simple mark making.