Published February 18, 2004 in South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Black/white, right/wrong, yes/no. No such dualities play a part in Los Angeles-based artist Barbara Strasen’s work. Strasen favors the many and the more, the multifaceted and multilayered (in an entirely literal sense), which she feels reflects both vision and experience in the contemporary urban, image-saturated world.
Her current exhibition at the Ambrosino Gallery in North Miami features what she calls “the world’s largest limited edition print” — a 46-foot-long, 8-foot-high installation that extends over two of the gallery’s walls. As its base image, it features a panoramic photograph of a quintessentially urban locale, the corner of 47th Street and Lexington Avenue in Manhattan.
Superimposed upon it are a host of other images, many of them contained within lenticular screens. While you may be unfamiliar with the term, you have seen lenticular screens many times, generally in postcards and small-format labels and tags. They are striated, plastic-surfaced screens (or lenses) that offer consecutive views of multiple images. When you look from one vantage point you see one image, when you shift to a slightly different vantage point you see another and then perhaps another. (Tilting the image produces a flickering of the various perspectives and a kinetic effect). Strasen, who has been working with the lenticular process for about five years and has become a master of the medium, can assemble up to eight different digital images behind a single screen.
In her installation at Ambrosino, one of the images offered by each lenticular screen piece is continuous with the panoramic New York City photograph. Another of the images reproduces one of Strasen’s handmade artworks, color line drawings of figures and other recognizable motifs drawn on sheets of overlapping, transparent Mylar, thus multiplying the layers of the already layered imagery. Other photographic images range from reproductions of famous works of art to travel photographs to photographs of embroidered napkins found in thrift stores.
But Strasen doesn’t stop there. Her goal is to achieve multiplicity, and hundreds of flickering images apparently do not suffice. Appearing to float upon the surface of the whole are a variety of invented heraldic motifs — 19 different symmetrically formed, nonsensical “coats of arms for the people of today,” as the artist has indicated. These are made up of such found and familiar objects as teddy bears, bumble bees, primitive masks, bite plates, angels and sliced meats. Further activating the surface and drawing the viewer in to view the work at close range are small, 1-inch-square photographs. Observant viewers will note that these photographs recur in the lenticular screen pieces in the installation as well as in the individual works displayed on another of the gallery walls.
As a whole, Strasen’s is a visually and mentally stimulating exhibition as well as a whole lot of fun to see. It argues against linear and dualistic views of the world and celebrates both the individual (via the heraldic signs) as well as the multiplicity, variety and the richness of contemporary experience.
Roni Feinstein is a freelance writer based in Boca Raton.
IF YOU GO
“Barbara Strasen: Super Mega Multiplex-o-rama” runs through Saturday at Ambrosino Gallery, 769 NE 125th St., North Miami.