Kenneth Baker reviewed Katina Huston's exhibition Big Noise in the San Francisco Chronicle

Katina Huston turns shadows into allusive images

February 2011

by Kenneth Baker

The tracing of cast shadows probably goes back to the forgotten origins of pictorial representation. That possibility lends the device, in Katina Huston's hands, a ready-made gravity. Se her recnet work at Dolby Chadwick.

For several years, Huston used bicycle parts to throw the shadows that she delineates in ink line and wash on Mylar. That series had a distinguished ancestor in Marcel Duchamp's 1918 painting "Tu m'."

Huston followed the bicycle series by working with shadows of chandeliers, incidentally involving a conceptual pun: shadows cast by light sources.

Her recent series hinges on the shadows of musical instruments, especially brass. It may contain a quiet salute to London sculptor Cornelia Parker, whose "Perpetual Canon" (2004) is a suite of flattened brass instruments, and is frequently installed so that their shadows take on a nearly equivalent presence.

In "Channeling Gorky" (2010), Huston created a jumbled frieze of trumpet shadows in ink, modulated here and there with silver pigment. The title claims the composition's chance resemblance to paintings by Arshile Gorky (1904-48), especially "One Year the Milkweed" (1944).

Channeling Gorky, 2010 | Ink on Mylar | 36 x 72 Inches
Channeling Gorky, 2010 | Ink on Mylar | 36 x 72 Inches

The less composed Huston's instrument images appear, the better.

A piece that aligns trombone slide shadows into a crude approximation of musical staves disposes of an obvious temptation. But as in the past, Huston excels when she embraces the limited control that her materials impose and lets unpredictable complexities rule. The parallel between instruments' shadows and their undepictable sounds provides all she needs of symbolism.