Karl Baden: Roadside Attractions

BY Edie Bresler, January 21, 2013

 Karl Baden, Millbury, MA, 2010. Courtesy Howard Yezerski Gallery

If five seconds is the average length of time your eyes are off the road while texting, I wonder what it is when photographing? Karl Baden shoots exuberant color images from his car (sometimes while driving), invigorating the genre of street photography with a contemporary twist. Relying on serendipitous photographic encounters, he has an uncanny knack for witty juxtapositions that fuse the car’s interior with the world outside in clever visual mashups. In one image on view at the Howard Yezerski Gallery through February 5, a giant milk splash against a brilliant blue sky engulfs the windshield; on closer inspection, it turns out to be the graphic from the side of a delivery truck. In another photograph, a tree silhouetted against the evening sky appears to be sprouting from the dashboard controls. Baden’s photographs are funny, but with a touch of 21st-century anxiety. A garage overflowing with clutter piled on and around a rusted 1949 Ford is packed into the lens-like shape of his vehicle’s passenger window. The side mirror of his car reflects the greenery from an empty lot down the street, a possible remedy to this claustrophobic view.

Karl Baden, Interstate 84 East CT, 2011. Courtesy Howard Yezerski Gallery

For Baden, humor is the antidote to life’s abundant demands, and peeling apart these layers of visual stimuli is as rewarding as the complex maneuverings required to make them. Even while driving down the expressway, he manages to perfectly nest a mammoth tire from an orange and yellow backhoe loader inside his passenger window. Akin to Lee Friedlander’s black-and-white cross-country views of America, Baden’s pictures show us the wanderlust mined from the daily commute. His photographs signal a remedy to the circadian grind and encourage us to simply sit back and enjoy the ride.