new-york

Bill Barrette

Fiction/Nonfiction

Bill Barrette’s carefully fabricated boxlike constructions, incorporating optical devices, early photography, and found objects, suggest early cameras, which faithfully transcribed their views onto silvered glass plates. Many of Barrette’s boxes contain photographic portraits, usually derived from daguerreotypes of nameless sitters captured in uncomfortable formal poses, in which the subject looks out at the viewer looking in. Other images include a monochromatic view of an ancient city and a red-dyed, photographic image of a 19th-century painting of a town consumed by fire. The resulting vignettes are eerily disquieting.

Mounted on the wall and supplied with matter-of-fact titles such as Two Sisters #39, 1990, Anonymous Child #29, 1989, or Anonymous Couple #35, 1990, Barrette’s open contraptions provoke the viewers’ curiosity —we want to know how they work. Intrigued by the shadows they

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