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Barer / Hsu
at Andrea Schwartz Gallery, San Francisco, California
Recommendation by Cherie Louise Turner

Cara Barer photographs old newspapers; Pang-Chieh Hsu paints paper currency. Both arrive at a kind of cultural vanitas.


Continuing through May 19, 2012


Stacks of paper — specifically paper money and newspapers — feature prominently in this two-person exhibition of near-photorealistic paintings by Pang-Chieh Hsu and photographs on Plexiglas by Cara Barer. Comprised of a modest ten works — seven by Barer and three by Hsu — all roughly sized around 40 x 40 inches, there is ample space to contemplate these powerful meditations. This proves to be a good argument that less can still be more.


Each of Barer’s pieces features a stack of newspapers, apparently prepped for recycling — some are already bound with string — and photographed from the side against a black or clear/white background. We see only a small sliver of the background. Glimpses of headlines and stories are visible. This is a departure from previous work which primarily featured the book as a sculptural form. The thread that is carried forward, however, is a focus on text and the sculptural form of its container. Here, additionally, is emphasized the overwhelming amount of information we are subjected to as well as its fleeting significance.


Barer work is beautifully complemented by Hsu’s quiet, sumptuously rendered images. These paintings also have a single subject, shown close up (sometimes to the point of abstraction): rough stacks of crinkled, yellowed paper. It is not obvious that this is money, leading the viewer to contemplate perceptions of worth — these stacks could easily be misconstrued as worthless paper. 


Together, the works of both artists compel us to reconsider what we value, using two of the most charged, manipulated, and focused-on elements of our daily world: information and cash. They are at once, so important, but also, after all, just piles of paper given their value only through  the artists' eyes.

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