Utan Barth: What to See in New York Art Galleries This Week

Roberta Smith, Martha Schwendener and Will Heinrich, The New York Times, March 8, 2017

Through March 11. Tanya Bonakdar, 521 West 21st Street, Manhattan; 212-414-4144, tanyabonakdargallery.com.


Uta Barth’s photographs have always nodded heavily toward painting — particularly the misty look of Impressionism, which influenced pictorialist photographers, and strains of abstraction. Her latest show at Tanya Bonakdar feels like a departure because the outlines and images are much sharper. Allusions to painting are still present, however; it’s just that Ms. Barth’s focus has shifted to still lifes and monochromes.


In the downstairs galleries, the series “In the light and shadow of Morandi” overtly recalls the muted still lifes of Giorgio Morandi. Where Morandi’s small canvases featured vases that suggested the heft of classical Greco-Roman sculpture, Ms. Barth’s photographs of glassware vessels show off the camera’s spectral effects. Printed as trapezoids and hung within rectangular frames, the photographs also refer to the history of shaped canvases in painting.


Upstairs, a suite of large-scale photographs of an exterior wall of Ms. Barth’s studio mimics the lineage of white monochrome paintings. A row of small windows at the top of the images copies Jasper Johns’s “Target With Plaster Casts” (1955) and “Target With Four Faces” (1955), paintings with compartments in their upper registers that rupture the medium’s two-dimensional format.


Shapes and surfaces are important here, but so is time. Ms. Barth’s works are designed for slow looking (the opposite of photography on the internet). Beyond Vija Celmins’s similarly rich yet spare exhibition of paintings at Matthew Marks, you might spend more time contemplating Ms. Barth’s photographs of “blank” walls and refracting vessels than anything in Chelsea at the moment.