New York

Jared Bark

Bykert Gallery downtown

Questions that keep recurring. Jared Bark’s work is also marked by his technique. His medium: photobooth strips mounted one next to the other to form an image narrated in frames. Order inherent in the simple repetition of equal rectangles which snap after snap imply their sequence in time. Yet paradoxically when used directly as the familiar photo-booth in which one sits and has one’s photo taken, the device seems less obtrusive, or rather more a tool for exploration. To be specific. In a group of nine pieces California North to South, Bark lines up strips of faces, each group having been taken in a different photo-booth in a different part of California. Bark himself provides a constant as he appears with each group. Changes in the exposure and the backdrop curtains formally denote the shift in place from booth to booth. But I found myself concentrating on the people in the photos, the human reaction to the given situation. Being inside a photobooth. A private space with public exposure. Putting on a face for the camera. How does one want to be seen? The photostrip as the document of a performance, provoking speculation about presentation, about self and image.

In another piece Bark twists this interplay between performance and record into an endless riddle. A TV hockey game is returned by the photobooth to a succession of stills. The video as an actor, fabricating a reality through a continuum of shots, close-up to distant. The photo-booth as an anonymous viewer, distilling the program into sequential fixations. Reconstructing the construction, a record of a record. And who are the performers? The hockey players? The video camera manipulating their activity? The photo-machine clicking on and off at set intervals? Or finally the spectator reading the frames one to the next, accumulating a narration?

Other works, though, make me wonder whether the photobooth isn’t just a gimmick for making pictures. A moon shape gradually emerging from one side of the frame step by step through the center until it disappears on the opposite side. A light bulb turning in stages from completely off to fully on and back again. Does the photostrip format differentiate these images from established studies of progression and movement? Associations to Muybridge, to Dibbets, even to serial painting. Do the ideas go any further? Perhaps more to the point: Bark’s gridded black-and-white geometric designs created by holding up cardboard to darken either a whole frame or part of it. Does the knowledge of the timing involved as the camera blinks automatically change one’s perception of the final image? Or is the medium just another means of revealing the segmented buildup of a picture which in itself is conventional?

Susan Heinemann