After graduating from New York's School of Visual Arts in 1980 with a BA in photography, Baril served as Robert Mapplethorpe's exclusive print maker. Since then Baril has distanced himself from the Mapplethorpe work and has enjoyed a solo career by bringing to us something uniquely his own-- stunning imagery from both behind the camera and out of the darkroom.
In the last 35 years, printmaking is not all that Tom Baril has mastered. He embraces every nuance of his medium. Whether it is 4 x 5 Polaroid pinhole or 8 x 10 collodion wet-plate, Baril manages to astonish us with technically perfect and pure prints. Baril's studies include urban architecture, minimalist seascapes and meticulously detailed botanicals and still lifes.
In the words of one commentator, Baril's "exquisitely imagined and powerfully rendered" images are "…clearly founded upon the photographic masters of the past. But his tones and techniques demonstrate a contemporary vision, offering an elegant synthesis of artistic tradition and current aesthetics." In other words, the effect achieved in Baril's work is "both classic and contemporary."
Tom Baril's work has been the subject of two monographs, the highly acclaimed sold out self-titled book published by 4AD in 1997, and Botanica published by Arena Editions in 1999. His work has been featured in numerous publications, and is in prestigious collections, both public and private, including: The Philadelphia Museum of Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Center for Creative Photography, the George Eastman House, Amsterdam's Stedelijk Museum, The Fogg Museum at Harvard University, the Polaroid Collection and the Elton John Collection.
Despite foreshadowing some of his later photographs, Baril's early work has never been publicly exhibited prior to now and is largely limited to two bodies of work: "The American Diner" and "A Sense of Place". The vintage images from the 1977-1986 period making up these two collections are quite rare, usually existing in less than a handful of prints, and often in only one to three vintage examples. And all are stunningly printed.
The American Diner series depicts a lost cultural way sign of the U.S.A.'s dependency on its road system and these diners' modernistic architecture. The diner was a true American icon that exemplified the burgeoning growth and prosperity of post-WWII. Its disappearance from the scene may be a harbinger of a different kind of country--one less brass and full of life, if more sophisticated. Its loss heralds an age of less surety.
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