Barbara Ess: Someone To Watch Over Me

7 Apr 2019 – 12 May 2019

Regular hours

11:00 – 18:00
11:00 – 18:00
11:00 – 18:00
11:00 – 18:00
11:00 – 18:00

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Magenta Plains is proud to present Someone To Watch Over Me, our first solo exhibition with Barbara Ess. Ess is renowned for her haunting pinhole photographs and for performing in experimental bands in New York City’s 1980s and 90s downtown art scene. She is the founder and editor of the legendary mixed-media publication, Just Another Asshole, and has exhibited her work in solo and group exhibitions worldwide. Someone to Watch Over Me focuses on Ess’s recent projects in photography, video, and sound dealing with themes of boundaries, distance and separation. Ess has long used unconventional methods to underline the subjective nature of experience and representation.

Employing lo-fi optical devices and image systems, small telescopes, and a toy microscope, Ess embraces the glitches and unintended artifacts resulting from her processes, seeking to depict the uncertainties of perception and uncover ambiguous perceptual boundaries between the “in-here” and “out-there.”
Central to this exhibition are Ess’s Surveillance and Remote photographs. Having signed up as an online “Deputy Sheriff” for an internet surveillance site on the Texas-Mexico border, she accessed a network of low-resolution and heat-sensitive cameras. "is live stream program was designed for home computers as a “virtual community
watch” to empower the public to monitor suspicious activity, possible drug trafficking, and border crossings. Fascinated by the feeling of being present at the border from such a distance, Ess recorded events witnessed in real time happening thousands of miles away without reporting her observations. She later began making use of other live feeds available via television and the internet, such as weather, traffic and vacation cameras. "ese apparatuses continued to allow her the experience of collapsed space and
distance between the viewer and the viewed, the watcher and the watched. A$er discovering a UHF channel broadcasting local pedestrian and traffic activity, Ess spent late nights observing a couple hanging out in Times Square, cars whizzing down Victory Boulevard in Staten Island at sunrise, a yellow taxi waiting for a light to change on Canal Street, and a man stranded on a highway in the midwest, etc.

Her most recent series, Shut-In, chronicles an experience of being holed up in her apartment for more than a month while ill with bronchitis. Unable to continue her normal routine, she began photographing details of her daily life such as domestic objects and the changing light on the fire escape outside her window. Ess made small prints, enhanced them with silver, black and white crayons, and then later scanned and enlarged
the photographs. Barbara Ess uses mediation in her photography as a means to investigate the relationship of personal experience to the manifest world, foregrounding looking itself, acknowledging the artifacts of representation, and embodying a sense of longing in that gaze.

BARBARA ESS received a BA from
the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan
and attended the London School of Film Technique in
London. Upon her return to New York City she became
involved with music, performance, photography and
the creation of artist books. Ess has had numerous solo
exhibitions of her work throughout the United States
and Europe, including retrospectives at the Queens
Museum, NY, the Center for Fine Arts, Miami, FL and
the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA. Other selected
solo exhibitions were held at 3A Gallery, New York,
NY; Thierry Goldberg, New York, NY; Incident Report,
Hudson, NY; Wallspace, New York, NY; Moore College
of Art, Philadelphia PA; Curt Marcus Gallery, New
York, NY; Faggionato Fine Arts, London, UK; Frederick
Giroux Gallery, Paris, France; Michael Kohn Gallery,
Los Angeles, CA; Stills Gallery, Edinburgh, Scotland;
Fundacion La Caixa, Barcelona, Spain; Galeria
Espanola La Maquina, Madrid, Spain; Interim Art,
London, England; Ghilaine Hussenot, Paris, France
and Johnen+Schöttle, Cologne, among others.

Her photographs have been included in group
exhibitions at institutions including the Tang Museum,
Sarasota Springs, NY; New Museum of Contemporary
Art, NY; Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD;
Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton, NJ;
Middlebury College Museum of Art, Middlebury, VT;
Southeast Museum of Photography, Daytona Beach,
FL; Contemporary Art Center, Cincinnati, OH; Victoria
and Albert Museum, London, UK; and National Museum
of Modern Art, Tokyo, Japan. Barbara Ess has been
the subject of cover stories in Artforum and Art in
America and a monograph of her work, I Am Not This
Body, was published by Aperture in 2001. Her work is
in numerous permanent collections, including The Art
Institute of Chicago, The Whitney Museum of American
Art, Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, San
Francisco Museum of Modern Art, The National Museum
of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, The Carnegie
Museum of Art, The Walker Art Center, Pompidou
Center/Musee d’Art Moderne, and Modern Art Museum
of Fort Worth, TX. Barbara Ess lives and works in New
York City. She is an Associate Professor of Photography


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