Comments/Context: In walking through Barbara Probst's new show, I kept thinking of the old adage that great photographers "know where to put their cameras" and how Probst's works call into question that such a perfect place actually exists. Her multi-panel observations are delightfully brainy and mind bending, in that a single scene is photographed from multiple angles by multiple cameras, dispelling the idea that there is one "right" point of view. In fact, through the use of backdrops and poster walls, illusions are created and destroyed in the same moment, and the analytical reality changes depending on where you are looking. When placed side by side as groups, the pictures tell stories that are suddenly much more complicated and deconstructed than they appeared at first glance, where positions of figures are displaced and glances simultaneously shoot off in competing directions.
While Probst's two panel works often effectively set up her parallax, when more panels are included and the angles multiply, the works get much stronger and more visually challenging. Given that time is a constant (everything happens in a single instant), the spatial relationships between her subjects and the cameras create angles that attack the scene from all sides; when sequenced just right, the effect can be almost dizzying, as if the viewer was spinning around, going up and down. The works dramatically upend the notions of any constant perspective and of "truth" from any single point of view.
What I liked best about these photographs was that Probst's approach never felt like a parlour trick or a gimmick. Instead, it has sense of an intense, mature, intellectual exercise, where the edges of everyday vision are being challenged and explored. Even her simplest pictures ask questions and offer contradictions that require the viewer to both unpack and then reassemble the constituent parts to come to a conclusion. In the end, Probst's constructions invite a kind of visual thinking that is largely absent from the normal contemporary fare; they defy a quick, superficial read and offer answers only after the bonds of normal looking are broken.
- Artist site (here)
Through October 29th
453 West 17th Street
New York, NY 10011