Barbara Kasten

Untitled 13

1979

Artist
Barbara Kasten born 1936
Medium
Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper
Dimensions
Support: 406 x 508 mm
Collection
Presented by David Knaus (Tate Americas Foundation) 2016
On long term loan
Reference
L03805

Summary

Untitled 13 1979 is a black and white photogram depicting a complex abstract arrangement of rectilinear shapes and lines by the American artist Barbara Kasten. The image is divided diagonally by a number of lines of varying weight and thickness. These lines appear to be part of a structure, only partially represented in the photograph. Just off-centre of the composition is a light-coloured cuboid, which some of the lines overlay, while others intersect. This composition is complicated further by other semi-translucent planes. Strong contrasts between light and dark tones give depth to the composition. The print comprises objects from Kasten’s studio along with solarised prints made earlier. Kasten layered the objects – including wires, mirrors and fragments of paper – over the prints and exposed them to a light source. This contributed a camera-less component to the photograph, resulting in a partial photogram.

Untitled 13 is part of a series from 1979 called Amalgam, in which Kasten practiced this process. Another related work from the series, Untitled 11 1979 (Tate L03804), is also in Tate’s collection. These were among Kasten’s earliest photographic works and some of the first resulting from her experimentation with the relationship between the process of painting and different photographic materials and techniques, as the title of the series suggests. Originally trained as a painter, Kasten went on to study photography at the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland. Largely influenced by the California light and space movement of the 1960s, she began building large-scale models in her studio and photographing them, exploring the boundaries between sculpture, photography and installation. This led on to her photogram experiments, which informed the development of her practice from the 1970s onwards. These works are representative of the artist’s engagement with photographic materials and processes and their translations into a three and then two-dimensional objects. Kasten’s versatile practice references various categories of modernism, such as cubism, constructivism and abstract expression.

In the works that incorporate the photogram technique, Kasten investigated how the medium of photography can record through light the ambiguity of space and form. Realised in the studio and constructed solely for the camera, the photograms were created through the careful arrangement of shaped mirrors or constructed props made of industrial materials directly onto photographic paper. Kasten has explained: ‘The process of making complex shadows led me to photograms which were the entry point of my photographic career. Having a studio art background, the negative-positive photogram allowed me to explore the illusionist properties of photography with tangible sculptural materials and constructions.’ (Barbara Kasten, ‘Amalgam’, artist’s website, http://barbarakasten.net/amalgam/#1, accessed 18 June 2012.)

Further reading
‘Barbara Kasten: The Edge of Vision Interview Series’, video produced on the occasion of the artist’s exhibition at Aperture Gallery, New York 2009, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=76ARPrSiMJM&feature=related, accessed 18 June 2012.
Anthony Pearson, ‘Set Pieces’, Frieze, no.143, November–December 2011, pp.112–20.

Gaia Tedone
June 2012
Revised Zmira Zilka
February 2016

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