(American, b. 1985 Saudi Arabia; resides in St. Paul, Minnesota)
Evan Baden’s portrait series The Illuminati (2006-2007) depicts solitary figures from the waist up, bathed in a soft light and surrounded by shadows in a manner that recalls Johannes Vermeer’s (Dutch, 1632-1675) paintings. In Baden’s photographs, however, the glow radiates from the screens of electronic devices, such as iPods, cell phones, and computers, rather than streaming in from a nearby window. The artist captures his subjects during ostensibly private moments and their faces are uniformly expressionless as if mesmerized. Baden’s works reveal a notable generational shift: the kids growing up now have never known a world in which they are not constantly plugged into information networks, even while on the move. Though Baden’s portraits have a tranquil beauty, he is more interested in the implications of these new social conditions. “These devices grace us with the ability to instantly connect to others,” he states, “and at the same time they isolate us from those with whom we are connected. They allow for great freedom, yet so often we are chained to them.”
Baden continues his exploration of the relationship of technology and youth in his subsequent series Technically Intimate (2009-2010). Using found images from the Internet, Baden recreated scenes of young women and couples photographing themselves in pornographic poses. However, instead of simply recreating the images as they were originally shot, Baden includes the adolescent bedrooms where these acts take place. He is careful to note that the original images were intended for a single person in an intimate context rather than to be disseminated across the web. Tension is created in Baden’s photographs through contrasting adult content and juvenile surroundings as well as the images—intended privacy and the risk of anything sent through electronic media eventually finding its way into public circulation.
Baden completed a BFA at the College of Visual Arts, St. Paul, Minnesota, in 2007. His photographs have been exhibited both nationally and internationally, including in London, Paris, Venice, Florence, Finland, Toronto, and the United States. His work has appeared in numerous publications, including TIME, New York Magazine, Le Monde, The Guardian, Foam, and Die Zeit. Baden is a recipient of the Jerome Fellowship for Emerging Artists (2008), and his work is held in the permanent collections of the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; the Milwaukee Art Museum, and the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction at Indiana University, Bloomington.