Uta Barth · nowhere near

Since her first appearance on the exhibition circuit in 1989, a part of Uta Barth’s artistic practice has remained remarkably consistent, registering on the subtlest tactical variations from one show to the next. From the outset, she has sought to mobilize photography in service of a self-reflexive meditation, firstly, on the nature of the medium itself, and secondly, by extension, on the nature of perception more generally.

This means that the photographic apparatus is always being considered both "literally,” that is, in all its technical specificity as an actual representational device, and as a metaphor or analogon for human consciousness - the camera standing in for the mind, and the photograph for its product or thought. This much holds true for her work overall; from the earliest images to the most recent, all are purposefully poised at the intersection of certain artistic and philosophical interests, where every act of representation will necessarily show through to the attempt to somehow determine and articulate the substance of experience as such.

From the single image Ground and Field series, to the diptych and triptych formats of the subsequent Untitled body of work, to the repetitive photographic outpouring of her most recent project, we may sense a steady intensification of purpose, almost a mounting urgency. As the images accumulate, they also take on a distinctly filmic dimension, and here too one could outline a progression of sorts: beginning appropriately enough with an investigation of the single frame, through a succession of rudimentary zooms, pans and shifts in focus, and culminating in the complexly modulated ‟long take” of this latest work. Whatever questions of reference persist throughout the Ground and Field series are increasingly upstaged by the camera’s own movements in the following works, increasingly, that is, the photographer’s active negotiation of her chosen terrain begins to preclude any possible significance it might hold on its own. Here, a simple glance to the right or left is unfolded into a dense phenomenological drama of shifting focal planes, perspectival realignments and subjective recalibrations. In the space of just two or three photographs, the view is altered to the precise point where the viewer begins to get lost within it.

Gallery Guide essay text by Jan Tumlir, artist and writer, Los Angeles

Born in Germany in 1958, Uta Barth received a BA from the University of California, Davis, in 1982, and an MFA from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1985.