Ho Baron: Gods for Future Religions at the El Paso Museum of Art is an uncanny blend of maximalism, surrealism, the ascetic, and the interstellar.
Ho Baron: Gods for Future Religions
September 22, 2022–January 15, 2023
El Paso Museum of Art
“Gravediggers Puncture Nuclear Container” screams one July 1995 headline from the El Paso Lampoon. “Insurance Companies No Longer Must Pay Back” reads another from an October 1996 edition. These satirical newspapers by Ho Baron, crammed with goofball headlines and on display in Gods for Future Religions, are one of many entry points into Baron’s outsider art mind.
According to the exhibition statement for the fifty-year retrospective at the El Paso Museum of Art, a Baron piece isn’t complete until all negative space is expunged. Nowhere is this more evident in the work of the Surrealism-minded artist than in his sculptures, which comprise a majority of the show, a first-of-its-kind exhibition for the volume of work and Baron’s various mediums displayed under one roof.
A throughline is the concept of multiple selves and gender fluidity. Baron, working in cast stone, concrete, and bronze—some works are normally displayed in the artist’s outdoor sculpture garden at his El Paso residence, and this show is meant to recreate that feeling—renders peculiar ancient-future beings through the blending of human forms with the anthropomorphic.
One (1994), a taller-than-life-sized bronze work, includes an extraterrestrial-like head, fish-type figures on the chest area, and scaly legs incorporating faces with various haunting expressions. Ho Doe (1999), which depicts two pink- and yellow-hued creatures, exudes both prehistoric and space-age alien vibes. Other otherworldly sculptural works incorporate Mayan, Hindu, and Buddhist symbolism, further cementing the artist’s unification of the primordial with the future.
The show, big on playful titles—He Wore Many Faces (Tombstone) (1990), Eating the Kids (1996), Social Insecurity (2001), Cloning Around (2001), Ho the Hell is Who (undated)—also includes double-exposure photographs and drawings that corroborate Baron’s impressive output and assorted art-making heft.
Baron’s outsider approaches with surrealism, maximalism, monastic cultures, and the cosmic seem to allow the artist to establish a deeper connection to the elusive collective unconscious, a Baron-backed philosophy that’s given a nod in the show’s didactic materials. With that in mind, the works on display in this retrospective are what the often-unexplainable mindset might look like visually, at least to us mortal humans.