Mehran Ali '16
Barbara Kasten, Photogenic Painting Untitled 75/31, 1975
For me the most exciting moment working on this essay was getting to see the actual photogram by Barbara Kasten. Getting to see Photogenic Painting Untitled 75/31 added so much to the experience, even more so because her work is abstract, non-representational, and the formal elements, the shapes, lines and color, are so powerful and important. I was already very impressed and intrigued by what I had found out about Barbara Kasten through my research, and all of her photographs are very beautiful. Flattening and abstracting 3d sculptures into 2d illusionistic photographs, Barbara Kasten's work creates a powerfully engaging optical experience. Looking from a distance, it was a beautiful abstract image, pale streaks and waves crossing through the deep blue and translucent shapes emerging from the blue. Upon closer examination, the fine texture of the fiberglass mesh was revealed, and I realized that this abstract photograph of color and flowing shapes is actually a very direct and literal documentation of an actual fiberglass sculpture. What I am trying to figure out now is why Barbara Kasten chose to start exploring photographs through the cyanotype. Kasten's interest in the Bauhaus is well known. Could there be something in the Bauhaus approach of unlearning, exploring and going back to the basics, as developed by Josef Albers, which might explain her decision?