2023 Soft Corners

Photos courtesy of Olympia Shannon

Soft Corners, Mrs.

November 4, 2023 – January 6, 2024

Mrs. is thrilled to present Soft Corners, Slovakian painter Alexandra Barth’s first solo exhibition with the gallery. With the gentle touch of airbrush on canvas, the artist renders hard objects softly, their intention appearing more clear as the gaze lingers. She captures the memory of details in a particular room using flat, soft color and a nuanced range of white. Light casts heavy shadows, angular objects converge and are personified in her scenes which evoke the quality of film stills. 
Barth’s works document objects, human intervention and absence. Each painting is initiated with a photograph captured by the artist. She transforms these images by creating a painting smaller in scale, only to enlarge and apply this very same imagery to a grander canvas. The precision of her hand in replicating these compositions at both scales serves as a form of photographic duplication – in this way, Barth’s paintings function similar to editions, the petite works carrying as much weight as the more sizable ones. 
Barth, who grew up in Slovakia in the 1990s within the starkness of Soviet bloc architecture, hones in on objects that offer a sense of minimalism and uniformity, familiar from childhood memory. It is through this lens that she encounters other design traditions and class signifiers — Venetian moldings, fabrics, and wardrobes of her current residence in Sanguinetto, Italy– which allows Barth’s paintings to fuse time and geography. They remain rooted in the present while looking back, holding, as poet Jane Hirschfield calls it, “the vast reach of all that is not, and still something is.”
In works like Hidden Corner and Moulded Cabinets, we are reminded of the relationship between the ornamentation of objects and architecture. Objects and ornamentation carry a history of making, of use, of the societal undertones of a particular place. The specificity of the surfaces the artist depicts – marble tile, wardrobe mirror, striped drapery, silk bathrobe – suggests the character of recent inhabitants, and offers a curiosity about someone who came before. Yet these spaces present an anonymity, like hotel rooms wiped clean between guests.
From this emotional perspective, Barth takes an unfinished scene and recalls a feeling of the action, surrounding those objects within space—a Pile of Frames, left unhung, The Red Silk Sleeve, clipped by a wardrobe, unintentionally perhaps. A Door with a Copper Handle finds the viewer in a familiar moment of pause, an inhale before the next push. Shadows, reflections, and idiosyncrasies of the particular details and spaces which the artist currently occupies are pregnant with the stories and choices of those who came before. These moments are plentiful yet often unnoticed as we walk through our days. Barth, our conduit, translates the complexity of multiple overlapping moments, in all their ghostly beauty.