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By Flora Naughtie 

The first major survey of the Chicago-based artist, Barbara Kasten’s work – Stages – is now on at MOCA. Known primarily for her photographic work Stages unites Kasten’s use of sculpture, installation, textiles and video to expose the relationship of space and light. Her attention to these themes creates a strong cinematic voice and is perhaps why the exhibition suits the Los Angeles setting so well.

The constructions that Kasten presents are abstract forms and the transformative experience is achieved through shifts in tone, shape and shadow. It is this relationship between the viewer’s bodily experience and the work – shifting or fixed – that is tested throughout the rooms of the exhibit and the different points of Kasten’s career they represent. In the video work Axis (2015) Kasten employs the architectural space of the gallery as her set and allows the walls of MOCA to envelop the viewer as they become part of her geometric, architectural composition. 

Kasten’s use of photography has certainly influenced a new generation today and is the take-home message of the extensive exhibition. The roots of her practice in the Bauhaus avant-garde of those like LászlóMoholy-Nagy represents an investment in line, form and light over explicit content and documentation. The staging raises the question of whether experimental, non-representative photography is indeed undergoing a mainstream comeback.
Go, see it and decide.

Barbara Kasten: “STAGES” is at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles until August 14th 2016.