“Stages” was the first substantial survey of Barbara Kasten’s work, which has recently gained new currency as a precursor of the set-up, abstract, and process photography now being made by such artists as Eileen Quinlan and Sara VanDerBeek. Although Kasten is primarily known as a photographer, the show also incorporated her work in other mediums, including textiles and installation.
The assembled pieces here suggested that the artist’s primary subject is space. Photography’s ability to flatten, distort, and fragment space is exploited in works ranging from Kasten’s first staged photographs of objects—including her subtly colored “Constructs” of the early 1980s—to her remarkable pictures from later in the decade of corporate offices and museum buildings that, shot at night using gel lighting and mirrored props, resemble modernist opera sets. Elsewhere, physical space is transformed by one of the standouts of the exhibition: the brand-new video piece Axis (2015), in which three stacked, slowly revolving white cubes are projected in the corner of the room.
For those who had previously only encountered Kasten’s photography in reproduction, the enveloping scale of the works was a surprise. Equally startling is the degree to which these purely analog pieces anticipate the digitally constrcuted images of our own time.
A version of this story originally appeared in the September 2015 issue of ARTnews on page 88.