Inside Barbara Kasten’s First European Museum Show

June 15, 2020

The American art scene at end of 1960s and early 1970s was flooded by a generation of artists willing to develop entirely new approaches to art-making that were largely influenced by the interwar experimentation.

Barbara Kasten, a devoted practitioner of abstraction was one of them; her immaculate body of work has maintained an edge despite the flow of time as the artist pushed the limits of photography to represent the dynamic relationships among abstract elements within her three-dimensional constellations.

Kasten’s works were exhibited throughout the States and elsewhere in Europe, but the current survey of her domains at the German Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg is the artist’s first solo European museum presentation that features all the stages of her practice - from early sculptures over constructivist photographs to the latest video installations. 

Left: Barbara Kasten - Collision 5 T, 2016. Digital Chromogenic Print. © Barbara Kasten, Courtesy die Künstlerin, Bortolami, New York, Kadel Willborn Gallery, Düsseldorf und Thomas Dane Gallery, London / Right: Barbara Kasten - Architectural Site 8, December 21, 1986. Cibachrome. © Barbara Kasten, Courtesy the artist

A Unique Artistic Approach

Barbara Kasten received her BFA at the University of Arizona in 1959, and afterwards she moved to Germany where she was able to explore more closely the ideas of the Bauhaus concerning space, and light. In late 1960s, the photographer returned to the USA to attend the California College of Arts & Crafts (MFA study in California, and during that time she initially focused on the development of her fiberglass sculptures.

However, under the influence of Laszlo Moholy-Nagy and his iconic photograms, Constructivism, and other modernist sources, she started experimenting with unconventional photographic techniques, an approach that gradually became her signature. 

Barbara Kasten - Triptych I, 1983. Polaroid Polacolor. Collection Monika Schnetkamp © Barbara Kasten, Courtesy the artist and Collection Monika Schnetkamp, Düsseldorf

The Works

The visitor have a unique chance to observe the results of her meticulous process characterized by the usage of simple materials (such as fly screens, Plexiglas, mirrors, etc.), and light and shadow for photographic translation of painterly concept.

For instance, the Constructs series developed between 1979 and 1986, perfectly illustrate how the artist arranges everyday materials to develop her carefully staged compositions that resist any categorization.

Such an experimentation was further explored with the series of analog photographs called Architectural Sites (1984–87) that were inspired by the related to cultural and financial exchange, such as the Whitney Museum of American Art and the World Financial Center.

Kasten's practice developed in different directions as she produced various photography based installations, and in recent years, she went one step beyond by producing videos aimed to increase the spatial illusion of the projection with the support of real objects in the space. 

Director Dr. Andreas Beitin takes you online to the exhibition Barbara Kasten. Works!

Barbara Kasten at the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg

This survey was curated by Andreas Beitin who wanted to underline Barbara Kasten’s unique position in the international context, but also in regards to contemporaneity defined by the digital image manipulation.

A bilingual catalog (German/English) with essays written by renowned art historians, as well as an interview with the artist complements the current exhibition.

Barbara Kasten: Works will be on display at the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg until 8 November, 2020

Featured images: Barbara Kasten - Sideways/Corner, 2016. Video (digital). © Barbara Kasten, Courtesy the artist and Kadel Willborn, Düsseldorf; Progression One, 2017. Digital Chromogenic Print, fluorescent plexiglass. © Barbara Kasten, Courtesy the artist and Bortolami Gallery, New York. All images courtesy Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg.

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