Thomas Barrow’s distinguished career in photography is characterized by a remarkable range and complexity of imagery. As one who almost immediately abandoned the traditional approach to photography, Barrow has found inspiration in the work of experimental printmakers and painters and was deeply influenced by the Bauhaus approach of the Institute of Design, where he studied in the 1960s. Although his work displays a designer’s interest in color and form, it is fundamentally cerebral, challenging the viewer to decipher the many references to contemporary culture and art history. Barrow is both an avid collector and relentless critic of material culture, and postwar American Society has offered him a limitless variety of subject matter. He recycles material and imagery, returning it to us in a dense, multi-layered format that demonstrates both the complexity of modern life and what an inventory of cultural detritus can reveal.
Beginning in 1968, Barrow began making photographic prints using the Verifax photocopy machine, an Eastman Kodak product developed in the 1940s. This primitive, outmoded process held more potential for artists than for office workers, however, since it utilized a matrix, or master, which received the negative image. Acting like a paper negative, the Verifax image could be transferred to treated copy paper, giving it an affinity to the traditional gelatin silver process. Using a reproduction as a work of art necessarily invokes Walter Benjamin’s essay, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.”
In 1973, Barrow received a grant from the NEA for a Verifax book project, resulting in Trivia and Trivia 2. Their emphasis on information made them appropriate for the book format, unlike the rarified presentation of prints on a wall. Although produced in an edition of ten, each is unique, for Barrow did not make identical prints of each image. The Gallery is pleased to offer these two rare volumes of prints for the first time.
Thomas Barrow’s work is included in the following collections: National Gallery of Canada, Ontario, Canada; International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House, Rochester, NY; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; Philadelphia Museum of Fine Arts; The Detroit Institute of Arts; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Minneapolis Institute of Art; The Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ; Princeton University Art Museum; The Art Institute of Chicago; Visual Studies Workshop, Rochester, NY; The Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities, Los Angeles, CA; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; International Center for Photography, New York, NY; and the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA, among others.
Trivia and Trivia 2, The Verifax Prints, 1973
August 14 – September 26, 2020