The centerpiece of Uta Barth’s latest solo show is a photo series depicting a continually morphing strip of light beneath her living-room curtains, a preposterously simple conceit which nevertheless yields complex optical illusions. As this diaphanous sliver shifts course over an afternoon, it variously resembles a snake, a line on an EKG or a trail of cigarette smoke, all the while transforming the space between the camera, the curtain and the window into an ambiguous territory where volumes flatten or swell, and light can pass for white paint.
Two glimpses of Barth’s hand arranging the curtain folds remind us of her agency, but it’s nature’s hand that propels the work’s attractively simple narrative as the sun’s changing position gradually increases the width of the band. At this time of year, as the onset of winter makes Barth’s invitation to contemplate sunlight especially attractive, the work entices us into the pleasures of solitary idleness that are at odds with the pace of everyday urban life.
In the back room, by comparison, a second group of photographs depicting built-in closets and drawers in the artist’s bedroom seems coldly architectural. Each image is emblazoned by squares or rectangles of light cast from an opposite window: One features a particularly bright patch that suggests celestial or alien visitation; another, a band of shadow over a door latch, creates the illusion that the surface of the print is scratched. But otherwise, the real drama of transformation takes place in the front gallery.
Originally published in Time Out New York, issue 839, Dec 1-7, 2001.