Barbara Kasten, Construct XV, 1982
February 18, 2020
It wasn't until 1917, 80 years after the invention of photography, that Alvin Langdon Coburn produced the first body of totally non-objective photographs, which he called Vortographs. Coburn created these crystalline works using an instrument "composed of three mirrors fastened together in the form of a triangle, and resembling to a certain extent the kaleidoscope." Coburn's pioneering work is clearly echoed in Barbara Kasten's use of mirrored constructions that also exploit the myriad possibilities of light and refraction. For her part, Kasten was able to embrace the major development in photographic technology that had occurred in the half century between Coburn and herself - the advent of color photography. When white light passes through a prism, it creates a rainbow on the other side. This luscious and large Cibachrome print from 1982 ably demonstrates how Kasten amplified early abstract photography through a prism of vibrant color, making images that alluded to earlier modernist photography, while feeling wholly of her own time.