Volume 112 number 3 March 2013
Bay Area artist Katina Huston uses ink to trace the shadows of objects, thereby making a permanent record of the insubstantial and evanescent. To create each of the 16 drawings in her dazzling 2012 series “Goldberg Variations,” she arranged glasses-from champagne flutes to ordinary tumblers-in the positions of musical notes on segments of the sheet music for a famous composition by Bach. She then shone lights on the groupings and used ink and vinyl paint on Mylar to register the shadows of the glassware, suggesting a silent soundtrack with her art.
The resulting images transpose the stark black-and-white patterns of sheet music into abstract visual compositions filled with interludes of alternating cut-crystal sparkle and opacity, turbulence and orderly calm. Some of the “Variations” appear to be almost figurative, as the contours of the glasses remain easily legible. In others, Huston’s tracings coalesce in collisions of radiating rings that evoke ripples in water-or the vibrations of sound.
The monochrome Goldberg Variations 1, Glass Shadows in 4/4 Time presents 20 vessels, placed in a grid that recalls Modernism’s clean structures more than Baroque flourishes. For a trio of “Goldberg Variations,” each called a Wineglass Aria, Huston chose a palette of black and gold ink, and jade vinyl paint. The diversity of the three works implies that even when employing the same piece of music, the same style of glass, and the same colors, the artist can find endless permutations. Positive space and negative space shift, and forms dance and dissolve. Like a mysterious language, gold markings harness the myriad effects of illumination on and through the intricate surfaces. Strings of circles, created from the glasses’ bases, resemble whole notes written on the musical page-fluid melodies scored in light and darkness.