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In the early 1970s, long before “Photo Booth” was an application on MacBook computers, artist Jared Bark used analog photo booths in Times Square bars and other locations around New York City to create dazzling tiled black-and-white compositions.
Jared Bark: Photobooth Works, 1969–1976, on view now at Southfirst Gallery in Williamsburg, features 34 of these images, selected by art historian and gallery owner Maika Pollack. It’s the artist’s first solo exhibition in more than 35 years, featuring several never-before-shown pieces. In these gridded compositions, Bark fuses the aesthetic of Eadward Muybridge’s pioneering motion photographs with minimalist influences and imaginative explorations of experimental performance and choreography.
In the late ’60s and early ’70s, Bark was primarily known for his performance art. He performed as an amateur non-dancer with the likes of the Judson Dance Theater Group and was particularly interested the choreography of Trisha Brown, Yvonne Rainer, Steve Paxton, and Meredith Monk. By using his own body as the main subject in these photo-booth works — hands flashing various numbers of fingers, resembling sequenced pages of flipbooks; a series depicting his limbs contorted into jagged angles — he found a way around the ephemerality of performance.
These works are exciting both conceptually and on a purely visual level. Some are cerebral and meticulously plotted, like the geometric abstractions that recall Sol Lewitt’s obsession with grids and Donald Judd’s repetitive rectangles. To create black lines against a white field, Bark held a black stick at a series of different angles in the photo booth, planned beforehand in sketches that resemble sheet music, then arranged the printed strips side by side. Other series feature goofy self-portraits in which Bark poses with a cowboy action figure and a paper bag on his head.
At 70 years old, Bark now owns Bark Frameworks, one of New York City’s premier fine art framing and preservation companies — not too far a departure from his work in photo booths, which depended on framing serial shots within a standard set of dimensions.
Jared Bark: Photobooth Works, 1969–1976 continues at Southfirst Gallery (60 North 6th Street, Brooklyn) until November 15.