Uta Barth (born 1958, Berlin) challenges the traditional role of photography by
precluding any vestige of narrative, subject, figure or artist imprint. Consequently,
images are composed mainly of light, shadow, form and color, capturing a visual
composition rather than a historical moment that is so often assumed in photography
medium. Each image, void of the usual signifiers (object, landscape, figure, etc.)
challenges the human eye and correlating thought process to experience the image
exclusively in a visual sense and resist the urge to investigate further into a narrative.
Through this unique experience, the viewer remains actively engaged in the act of
seeing; a kind of optical meditation that is Barth’s main objective.
To extrapolate images void of subject matter, Barth often turns inward, photographing
seemingly mundane patches of shape, light and color in her own home. The banal
landscape of a curtain’s edge reaching the wall becomes an elegant stroke of shape
and shadow inside the camera field. These tranquil, still images are a sensual feast
for the eye if not an enigma for the brain.
Barth has exhibited several photographic series since 1994, each employing
strategies that question the psychological aspects of seeing. The series, Untitled
(1998), features triptychs of the same image interrupted by solid panels of fleshcolored
hue. The interrupting panels represent optical fatigue and the subsequent
blinking of the eye during the real visual experience.
The Flower (2005) series marks an important departure or rather adventure for Barth
into actual subject matter. She remarks, “The flower series was a bit scary. It’s the first
body of work in 15 years with a central subject and it’s not just any subject, but a
completely clichéd and culturally trampled one.” The cliché is reattempted with fresh
determination, this time to capture, literally as possible, the act of quickly glancing a
flower. The glance is replicated with aforementioned panels of vivid-orange, fleshcolored
blinks. Saturated with brilliant hues, the prints are aesthetically pleasant
efforts to recreate real sight.
Uta Barth currently lives and works in the Los Angeles area, teaching at the University
of California, Riverside since 1990. Barth received the John Simon Guggenheim
Fellowship in 2004-05 and was also named a 2007 USA Broad Foundation Fellow.
Her work resides in the collections of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San
Francisco, The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, The Tate Gallery,
London, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Museum of Contemporary Art,
Chicago, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles.