First Cubes

The earliest dated cube is Chip Off the Old Block from 1978. The following year, Baumgardner won Best in Show at the Art in Miniature juried competition, hosted by the Columbia Museum of Art, with his small cube encased, as the show’s guidelines required, within an acrylic photo cube. It was also around this time that he created his first large cube, Old Block.

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The starting point for Baumgardner’s work with cubes was the 3½ x 3½ x 3½ inch format, a series of works that were later grouped as “Found Cubes.” Many of these Found Cubes echo the dominant styles of his paintings and large cubes⁠—we find grids, raised panels, carved glyphs, bold palettes, and contemplative space. Often, Baumgardner manipulated the vertices of the cube, creating concentric shapes or optical illusions as the handheld sculpture would be turned by its viewer. On this smaller scale, however, we also find a new level of playfulness and often looser, more intimate lines. In one example, Surrealist automatic drawing is juxtaposed with a Geometric Greek figure on Found Cube #12, reflecting Baumgardner’s broad range of references.

The Greenville County Museum of Art produced a retrospective exhibition featuring 63 pieces created by Baumgardner between 1985 – 2011. The retrospective, “Made for Another World”, was on display from November 16, 2011 to January 22, 2012 and included Cubes #1 – #9 pictured to the right. With the exception of Old Block, these nine cubes were the first 12 x 12 x 12 inch cubes. Even in this photo, we see similarities between his two-dimensional work and his cubes, with the combination of the grids and glyphs used on all sides of the cubes.