RTG #3: Uta Barth at the Getty Center

Solstice at Getty Center

Our Los Angeles skies are pristine after the rain and there’s no better viewing perch than the Getty Center. Living in proximity to one of our country’s most visited museums makes it a treat to pop up the hill for some winter views of the basin (and the art, of course). For the Solstice last month, we took the tram late in the day and watched the sun go down. It was an impulsive move, designed to wring the most out of the shortest day of the year, and the setting sun did its job, lighting what leaves remained on the trees in Technicolor hues and turning the marble walls to gold. If we’d thought ahead, we could have stayed for dinner and enjoyed the grounds after dark.

Now is a great time to visit the Getty Center and catch an intriguing photographic exhibit before it closes on February 19 — Uta Barth: Peripheral Vision. Barth’s work is all about light and how we see. Her work is elegant and spare, quiet and satisfying if you slow down to immerse yourself in the work. Some images are intentionally out of focus, others are just corners of things out of frame, and still others are just lines of light that she has captured on film.

…and to draw a bright white line with light (11.2), 2011, printed 2021, Uta Barth. Pigment prints. Getty Museum. © Uta Barth

The show follows Uta Barth‘s career from art school to the present, including an intriguing project called “From Dawn to Dusk” commissioned by the Getty for the museum’s 20th Anniversary. Barth fixed a camera down in one spot on the hillside campus and tracked the day’s light as it played against the building in that exact spot; she did it twice a month over the course of one year and then made collage-like works from her results.  You can see these images in the first rooms of the gallery – be sure to look for a video screen (which looks deceptively like the rest of the images) that showcases a compilation of all the images taken over the course of the year. It’s hidden amidst still images, and is tricky to locate so ask the guard, if you don’t initially see it.

Uta Barth Ground #42, 1994

For the last several years, Barth has made images exclusively in her own home. Once you’ve seen her work, you may find yourself looking at light in your own home more closely.

Know Before You Go

Uta Barth was born in Germany but received her Masters in Fine Art from UCLA in 1985. She won a MacArthur Genius award in 2012. Here is a link to a video of Barth speaking about this fellowship.

The Getty has a complete assessment of what you’ll see in the show – click here.

Here is the artist’s official website. Here is her gallery’s website if you are interested in investing in her work.

This Modern Art Podcast includes Barth speaking about several of the images in the show.

Extend Your Adventure

Getty on the Winter Solstice, 2022

Walking:  For many, the fun of the Getty begins on the tram – but it is often quite crowded so if you are Covid-wary, or just want more exercise, consider walking up the hill. Ask a guard where the trail begins. Traipsing around the Getty’s extensive grounds is an adventure in itself. Always leave time to explore the gardens and to duck into one of the permanent collection galleries, just for the sake of it.

Age Recommendation: Kids love the Getty because they first fall in love with the tram and then are delighted to romp around the grounds with abandon. If they never go in a gallery, it’s still a win to bring them up the hill, but taking a few moments to show them how to behave in a gallery will feel like an accomplishment. The Uta Barth show is accessible to pre-teens and up – you can have conversations about her subject matter (why is that photo blurry?) and how she frames her images. There is nothing problematic that that adolescents might see in the show.

Dining: There are a range of eating options from formal (The Restaurant) to casual. Bringing a picnic is permitted and recommended, as well. Dinner is only offered at The Restaurant on Saturday night; reservations are required, and the last seating is at 7:30. A nice plan for a winter weekend in town.

More Information: On any given day there are a variety of public tours available to visitors. You can download the Getty guide before you go to facilitate learning about what is in the galleries.

Getty Center 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90049 

All exhibits are free, but parking is $20 and a reservation is recommended.