When I first posted this image of André I posted the rough version…this is the better one. I did stuff to it in Photoshop. At Open Studios a couple weeks ago I paired a print of it it with a photograph of a lion sculpture, one of a pair that guard the door of a nearby church in my neighborhood.
…to walk without destination and see only to see
Tanya Bonakdar Gallery. 521 West 21srt Street. 212 414 4144. http://www.tanyabonakdargallery.com
May 6 – June 19, 2010
Barth’s work, in very general terms, explores the delicate nuance in the way a place is seen. Previous bodies of work show, in a fragmented way, places both indoor and out; including street scenes, bookcases, window sills and room corners. Not paying too much attention to a particular object in the space, her work more concerns itself with tracing light and subtle movement across varied spatial planes. I found an interview online between her and Sheryl Conkelton, from a 1996 issue of the Journal of Contemporary Art, where she is discussing her works entitled “Ground,” and “Field” which were interiors and exterior, respectively. Barth talks about how the work that ushered forth these bodies finally did what she had wanted work to do for a long time, which was “…quite literally inhabit the space between the viewer and the piece hanging on the wall and they do transfer one’s visual attention beyond the edges of the picture…” http://jca-online.com/barth.html.
What is interesting to me in reading this just after seeing her current show at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery is that she has literally gone outside with her camera after 10 years of photographing exclusively in her house, bringing the experience of her walk out into the world, into perspectives shown in diptychs and triptychs on the gallery wall. The 41 x 32 in prints hang nicely in aluminum frames and provide context of definitive experience beyond the frame. In almost all sequences, a picture of Barth’s legs and/or feet sit next to the picture or pictures of a tree. She shoots the foliage while looking up, using extremely shallow depth of field and the backgrounds almost entirely white and blown out. The faint suggestion of color provides evidence of the branches extending upwards, but what is concretely tangible only occupies a small fraction of the frame. In one image, none of the tree is in focus and the image in fact looks badly pixellated or distorted. I felt frustrated with this as the other images fall off so gracefully and are formally sound. I also felt like I didn’t want to constantly see the tips of her shoes in the bottom of the frame. The suggestion of position through her shadow works well enough and I felt the feet were helpful compositionally only in one or two of the pieces.
My favorite of the series is an outstanding diptych where there is a sidewalk seam that runs evenly diagonal along the frame, perfectly severing the long shadow of her legs. Her stance mimics the stick supporting the tree shown in the accompanying tree photograph. I enjoyed the completely in focus and flat focal plane of the leg images and the disparity between the flat looking down and the visually layered shots of sky and tree. In one image she uses a negative inversion of the image which, in my mind, further questions the relationship with space and reality.
What I love most about this show is that Barth is quite simply going on a walk to take these pictures and with no larger agenda, other than tracing the ephemeral nature of life, light and time. Perhaps it is just a great excuse to take pretty pictures of trees and the leg pictures thus evidence of the declared discursive purpose. I felt a small sense of joy when I read the press release and the theory of the “dérive” was left entirely out of a situation where it might have been tempting to use it. I’m saying this not because I find the concept entirely unappealing, but rather because I find myself annoyed with it’s constant use in art talk. I would much prefer to just take a walk with my camera, which is just what Uta did and for this, I would like to congratulate her. I also feel the meditative and quiet intention so poignant in her earlier work is picked up on in this series and continues with the suggestion of an unending threshold of life and space.
A series of previously unseen black and white photos taken 30 years back are in the back room of the gallery. Among others, there are images of snowy ground with trees pushed to the extremities of the frame, as well as a lovely series of shadows of bodies jutting forth from a door frame. These small square pictures compliment large color images in the main gallery by lending a sense of the trajectory of Barth’s work.
It’s getting towards the end of the semester. I’m working on several projects including an end of year book, slide-show presentation, prints for another project and 5 other things…plus my art stuff that extends beyond class criteria. Also, I spend so much time scanning film, sorting through files of images and editing my writing. I’m learning InDesign and improving my Photoshop skills. How am I supposed to write about how I’m inspired? I’m already 2 days late. I can’t write about Daido Moriyama again, can I? I could write about the pictures and words of Moyra Davey, but she deserves more than I can give at this moment. I went to the Met and to yoga today, which was amazing, but still no start there.
When I think about inspiration, what comes to mind are people and ideas that add fuel to the fire to live life and make work. I’m inspired by myself and my own manic drive to make pictures. My boyfriend, friends and classmates inspire me by their own work and support. The list of deep relationships and profound personal experiences that keep me plodding forward have resulted in feelings of ineffable appreciation, in spite of how overwhelmed I have been by the complicated nature of life. So, to keep this simple, so I’m going to write about “High on Fire.”
I saw them for the cagillionth time the Friday before last. As I decide to write about High on Fire for my inspiration-blog assignment, I check out some recent reviews. There’s one in the New York Times of the show I just saw at Gramercy theater. Ben Ratliff’s opinion of the band is unclear. He’s critical of the bad sound and of Matt Pike’s rough appearance/garbled vocals and referred to High on Fire as the forever “opening band.” He clearly states that the band makes strong music and pays an homage to their ability to play no matter what, as if they were fighting in a “prolonged war.” But it’s clear that Ben hasn’t been in the trenches. As I read it and other reviews I find myself increasingly agitated. Reviewers either clog their assessments with endless metal/rock jargon or incessantly express frustration with being unable to fit High on Fire into any genre or progressive category. I’m reminded that I dislike a lot of art critique as well and am often irritated by the tone used by authoritative opinion sharers. Sometimes I don’t want to think about it anymore. I just want to like it.