Untitled / Barbara Ess




Billboard print

A billboard print, enlarged from a photograph made with a pinhole camera, lines the room like wallpaper. Printed in color from a black and white negative, the image has been reproduced in a medium never intended to be viewed from inches away. It shows tourists waiting to board the ferry for the Statue of Liberty, but through the eye of the primitive instrument, it might be a hazy mass of people crowding against each other in a frantic scene of escape. Another print covers a billboard, mounted high above a city street.
Artist Statement
The photo billboard that I did at the Mattress Factory in 1988 reversed the usual recontextualization of photo-based work being done now. Instead of placing advertising material in an art context, the billboard put "messageless" art in a place normally reserved for advertising.

The original photograph was an image of a long line of people waiting for a boat. The billboard was repeated a number of times in the middle sections and was used also to wallpaper an entire room at the Mattress Factory.

The placement of the billboard in Pittsburgh (a city of three rivers and many bridges) was well-chosen and somehow made subliminal sensed‹right near one of the bridges. Just after crossing the bridge in a car, you suddenly came upon this image of people on land by water waiting for a boat. In the room the image also made a kind of metaphoric sense.

When the room was empty, it was nevertheless filled with people. At the opening with many people standing around, the wallpaper seemed like and extension of the contents of the room.
About the Artist
Barbara Ess is a photographer who is know for her use of the proto-photographic technology of pinhole cameras "to make work that persuasively comments on the embodied construction of visual experience, its distortions and various frailties, integrating those elements into the conceptual effect of her photography. Although her pictures are indeed dream-like in nature, they have at the same time an underlying rigour." The critic Carlo McCormick has written that her work "draws our attention to the intense primal emotions and experiences that exist like brittle moments of truth even within the world of simulation." She has exhibited her work at the High Museum of Art, Atlanta; Curt Marcus Gallery, New York; Faggionato Fine Arts, London; and Fundacion la Caixa, Barcelona, and at galleries in Madrid, Los Angeles, Paris, Antwerp, Cologne, and Washington. 
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