Comments/Context: I've recently been reading a book called Vision and Art: The Biology of Seeing, by Margaret Livingstone (here). As you might imagine from the title, it covers the technical underpinnings of how our human vision system works (rods and cones etc.), how the eye and brain connect and interact, how luminance and color are processed, and how central and peripheral vision work. It then goes on to show how various artists across the history of art have used color mixing, contrast and other optical techniques to achieve different effects. The reason I have been reading this book is that I have, of late, become more interested in the underpinnings of visual perception, as it relates to how we interact with and understand photography. Given this background study, you could say I was fully primed to enjoy Uta Barth's excellent new show, as her work has always thoughtfully explored the boundaries and ambiguities of seeing.
The smaller, black and white images in the back rewind thirty years, when Barth was just beginning her explorations of light, space, and time: light streams in through curtains and doorways, chairs are moved around a studio, and shadows divide a wall. Compositionally, the photographs are often consciously unbalanced, with large expanses of emptiness (floor, snow, wall) punctuated by the fragment of an object. It is easy to see where her conceptual ideas began, and then to walk back into the main gallery and see where those same motifs have evolved over her career.
Collector's POV: The color diptychs and triptychs in the show are priced at $30000 each. The smaller black and white works range in price from $5500 to $30000, based on the number of prints in the work. Barth's photographs have recently become available in the secondary markets, with a handful of lots coming up for sale in any given year; prices have ranged between $3000 and $38000.
Rating: ** (two stars) VERY GOOD (rating system described here)
- UC Riverside faculty page (here)
- Review: Frieze, 2008 (here)
- Interview: Journal of Contemporary Art, 1996 (here)
Through June 19th
Tanya Bonakdar Gallery
521 West 21st Street
New York, NY 10011