Since Richard Baker's debut as a Municipal Art Gallery "newcomer" in 1981, his work has gradually evolved from animated, abstract shapes skirting around and over the edge of unstretched canvases to nebulous, semiorganic forms quietly juxtaposed on murky fields. Current work uses the now popular multi-image format of artists like David Salle and Terry Winters, with seemingly disparate, incomplete or unrelated images strung together to trigger unconventional associations.
The notion of pulling art away from our visual and semantic habits is not new. When Monet said he wanted to paint as if he'd just learned to see, he was aiming at this same kind of unfettered, unconditioned seeing. But Baker, like his contemporaries, is concerned with setting off fresh psychic and subconscious associations. His dislocated globs suggest bones, flowering buds or the synaptic connections of nerve fibers. When he hits his mark ("Reactor"), we feel an edgy, visceral mystery; when he's off ("Fixture"), his intentional open-endedness seems amateurish and divorced from its goal. (Cirrus, 542 Alameda St., to Oct. 17.)