Uta Barth at 1301PE
Hunter Drohojowska-Philp praises the photographer's skill with light and shadow.
Uta Barth is best known for her photographs chronicling the effects of light in her studio, images that are minimal in both their appearance and sources. Her exhibition In the Light and Shadow of Morandi at 1301 PE is a more dramatic intervention. By placing colored glass vessels on a table in her studio, she photographed the effect of light passing through them to cast colored, rippling, fanciful shadows.
The show is an ode to the modern Italian artist Giorgio Morandi, who repeatedly painted still lifes of bottles, bowls and pitchers in a monochromatic and poetically simplified manner. Barth follows his method of returning repeatedly to similar compositions in order to concentrate on the relationships between the shapes of different vessels, the effects of light, whether radiant or cloudy, the range of possible colors.
Barth is not slavishly copying but borrowing from Morandi to analyze the differences between the individual perception of a painter and the camera's eye. Barth compensates for the parallax distortion of photography by combining different points of view in a single image. Objects appear both solid and translucent. Are we seeing the actual vessels or just their reflections and shadows? Heightening the effect, each photograph is presented on a matte that is cut to correspond to the black table bearing the vessels, which adds to the illusion of receding perspective. One edge of the matte is colored by Barth — yellow, blue — in a way that is scarcely noticeable but still adds a sense of containment. A shadow of the artist's hand in the arrangement is included in some pictures, as it has in some of her past work, as though the artist wants her intellectually and perceptually evolved art to retain a sense of self.