by Cate McQuaid
Katina Huston has a fascination with shadows. For her show at Chase Young Gallery, the artist placed drinking glasses on translucent mylar, according to the musical notation of Bach’s Goldberg Variations. She shined lights and used ink to capture the glass’s shadows. The Goldberg Variations comprise an aria and 30 variations upon it. Huston’s process has a parallel: The form was a given; she shined lights across it according to her own pleasure.
Some of the works are too crowded with watery shadows seeping into one another; the effect is clamorous. The sparer works have more emotional velocity. In “Goldberg Variations 8, Not Glenn Gould,” made after a friend told her that Gould’s version was all about color, and Bach’s original all about meter, Huston’s approach is more conservative.
The forms here are more discrete, each translucent and faceted, but as shadows somehow pulpier, filled with the longing associated with absence, than depictions of the glasses themselves might be. And the tones! The artist infuses dark outlines with smatterings of sapphire, emerald, and amethyst, as if stray jewels had been left in the glasses, tossing out phantasms of light.
The smaller works represent a bar of music, the larger ones up to five or six. The notation is hard to parse, but there’s something stately and evocative about the large-scale “Goldberg Variations 4, Aria,” a scroll written over only in dark and white ink, with the white carrying all the sparks of light. The whole leans toward an S curve. It’s hard to draw music, but the undertones, highlights, and fluidity of movement here come close.