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Barbara Pollack
Sue (Close-Up)

© ArtNet Worldwide 1997
david ebony's
new york top ten

Barbara Pollack
at Holly Solomon

Jan. 8-Feb. 8, 1997

Barbara Pollack's work constitutes a critique of photography's conventional function as a representational tool. In the ten extremely blurry portraits of friends and family members on view here, the ghostly images bear only scant evidence of a human subject. Having seen the artist at work, I can describe part of her procedure. In her studio, she poses her subject seated or standing, under intense lighting, usually from a single source. She moves around the subject waving the Polaroid camera, sometimes wildly, as she shoots quite close to the figure, which results in elaborate distortion. Out of dozens of Polaroids of a single subject, she selects one or two to be made into 16 x 16 in. cibachrome prints.

Sometimes, only eyes and mouth are visible, in others, only part of the head or neck and a fragment of clothing may be discerned. The images remain identifiable as portraits, however, because the artist conveys an individual emotional response to her subject. In some ways, her photographs are akin to painting, recalling certain works by Frank Auerbach, for instance. With these expressive images, Pollack pushes photography away from representation toward the realm of pure sensation.