BARBARA ASTMAN, R.C.A.
DANCING WITH CHE #10, 2002
signed on the reverse
8 ins x 7.75 ins; 20.3 cms x 19.7 cms
Pivoting between counter-culture politic and consumer-culture critique, Barbara Astman reliably issues a challenging voice on concerns related to media, feminism, and framing that have, in turn, helped advance an all-important generation of contemporary art. Among Astman’s most enduring artistic occupations is her employment and elevation of photography, a medium that underwent a dramatic shift in perception and assignment in the early 1980s and became more widely accepted within the visual arts. Evoking at turns humour and urgency, Astman’s adroit use of archetypal form, her consistent self-reflexivity, and her dexterous adoption of new technologies has helped establish her as a leading woman artist pursuing vulnerable self- and societal analyses through a still-evolving frame. Her famed Red Series (1980-81) is representative of the artist’s early focuses and formal strengths. Its assemblage of uniformly-painted objects (both banal and cheerful) encircle and occupy an unseeing protagonist who attempts to position herself, to perform herself, amid the flotsam of her competing roles. Thirty years later, Astman remains the moving target of her own work, this time dancing with the ubiquitous and commoditized image of Che – a persona that inspires personal attachment. The series lends intimacy to symbolism, and proposes contradictions that Astman still troubles as she pursues.
Born in Rochester, New York, Barbara Astman arrived to Canada in 1970, and three years later, graduated from Ontario College of Art, where she has taught since 1975. Her recent solo exhibition, dancing with che: enter through the gift shop, toured parts of Canada through installations at the McMaster Museum of Art (Hamilton), Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art (Toronto), and Kelowna Art Gallery, between 2011 and 2013. She had a 20-year survey exhibition that reached four leading museums across Canada in 1996-96. Astman is represented by Corkin Gallery.
Private Collection, Toronto