Magazine article Artforum International

Sara Barker

Magazine article Artforum International

Sara Barker

Article excerpt

STUART SHAVE/MODERN ART

Sara Barker's thoughtful, delicate constructions of wire, metal, and canvas were the quietest, slowest objects on view in London this Olympic summer. Standing on the floor at approximately human height, or wall-mounted and appearing more like architectural features, they resounded with a strong, independent voice. Barker is indifferent to refinement of fabrication, expensive or seductive materials, or any overt hankering after spectacular effect; in this sense, her work offers a real contrast to the high-spec, high-tech sculpture so common today. In Draft overlapped (all works 2012), for example, an aluminum structure is twisted and buckled, cut by hand with snips and pushed into place to make the join. Canvas strips don't quite meet the edges of the metal support, coming unstuck.

Barker's emphasis on a rough materiality and adhoc construction is not an end in itself; she marshals these materials and processes to produce work with a surprisingly gentle and introspective tone. One, Woman at a Window, refers to a well-known painting by Caspar David Friedrich showing a woman in an interior gazing out a window, and it set the romantic, introverted feeling for the other works in the exhibition. This piece is constructed from thin strips of roughly cut aluminum and filament-like metal rods, soldered, bolted, or riveted together. Other works, such as Adolescent, incorporate strips of canvas attached to metal structures, gently painted with washes and splashes of earth and lake colors. In other works, Barker uses watercolor to add to the sense that they have been constructed from scraps and leftovers. Her restrained palette--British-landscape tones, it might be said--underlines the sense of a fenestrated vista, the narrow passages of color like thin reflections of daylight in the mitered edge of a glass pane. Each construction evokes something different: Adolescent looks a bit like an expanded wire-frame model of an architectural feature; the roughness of Woman at a Window may in turn bring to mind an ersatz habitat, a customized outhouse, or a writer's den, but as architectural survivals, in a state of permanent dilapidation. …

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