Judith Barry

Judith Barry

Fellow: Awarded 2011
Field of Study: Fine Arts

Competition: US & Canada

Art Institute of Boston, Lesley University

Educated in architecture, computer graphics, literature and literary theory, and rhetoric (to name but a few fields she has mastered), artist and writer Judith Barry brings an unusual depth to her works, which range from single- and two-channel videos, to ephemeral and more permanent installations, art criticism, and fiction, and she is well known for conducting extensive research in preparation for her projects. For Not Reconciled: Cairo Stories, for example, a project she is continuing with support from her Guggenheim Fellowship, Ms. Barry has made multiple trips to Cairo over the course of more than six years to interview over 200 Cairene women in all walks of life. One purpose, she explained, was to give these women an outlet for their stories of “the negotiations that women in particular have to make within Cairo’s cultural/economic life, with a particular emphasis on the complexities of family life and allegiances and questions of class,” stories that would otherwise remain unheard and probably unvoiced.

After the translation and sifting of these interviews for common themes, Ms. Barry will write scripts based on the stories, which will then be vetted by a representative group of Cairene women for feedback. Once the stories are finalized, she’ll return to Cairo to film the narratives, using actors that speak both English and Arabic. The first part of Not Reconciled: Cairo Stories was presented at the Sharjah Biennale in the United Arab Emirates in March 2011. An article by Ms. Barry in October 123 (2008) discusses her Guggenheim Fellowship project.

She has used a similar process to produce other “stories” for other places as well. The original offering in the series was First and Third, which premiered at the Whitney Biennial in 1987. Again she filmed actors speaking the short monologues she had created from the interviews she had conducted with immigrants whose actual experiences in America called into question the promises of the “American dream.” She filmed the actors in extreme closeup, showing only their heads, then projected them directly onto the limestone walls of the museum, with each speaker fading out as the next one began. Since the projector was hidden, the images seemed to spring directly from, and then melt back into, the wall.

Her interest in architecture (B.S., 1978) and her early training as a dancer led naturally to her concern with physical space and how people shape it and are shaped by it. An outgrowth of this is her consistent focus on creating installations that make the viewer an integral part of the artwork, from Space Invaders (1980), in which the viewer becomes incorporated in the displayed photographs; to Speedflesh (1999), an interactive video game; to the two-channel video Study for Mirror and Garden (2008), in which by means of mirrors and transparent video screens the viewer becomes part of the narrative as he walks through the installation.

She has also used her architectural training to create the entire exhibition space for various shows, including for the group exhibitions Damaged Goods (1986) at the New Museum in New York City, and a/drift (1996), at Bard College at Annandale-on-Hudson, New York; and for her twelve-installation survey entitled Judith Barry: Body without Limits (2008), which opened at Domus Artium 2002 in Salamanca, Spain, and was also shown at the Berardo Museum in Lisbon, Portugal, in 2010. Her talent for creating these spaces earned her the Friedrich Kiesler Prize for Architecture and the Arts in 2000 and the Best Pavilion (and Audience Award) at the 8th Cairo Biennale in 2001.

Her other honors include an Anonymous Was a Woman award (2001), fellowships or grants from the New York Foundation for the Arts (three times), Art Matters (twice), the NEA, and the Daniel Langlois Foundation in Montreal. She has also held a Wexner Center for the Arts Residency in Video (1996) and a Senior Research Fellowship at MIT’s Center for Advanced Visual Studies (2005–07), where she began researching how to meld 3D computer graphics with 3D programs used in architecture to simulate spaces. One result of that study is her series of small sculptures created with her experimental methods that were exhibited at the Galerie Karin Sachs in Munich in 2011.

She has exhibited her works around the world, at such prominent venues as the Tate Modern in London; the National Museum of Modern Art in Kyoto, Japan; the Museum of Contemporary Art in Barcelona, Spain; the Russian Museum in St. Petersburg; the Musée des Beaux Artes in Nantes, France; and museums throughout the United States as well as at many international biennials. The Centre Pompidou in Paris; the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa; the Sammlung Goetz Foundation in Munich, Germany; and the Museum of Modern Art in New York are but a few of the public institutions that boast examples of her art in their permanent collections.

Blasted Allegories, edited by Brian Wallis (New Museum/MIT Press, 1987) and Thinking about Exhibitions, edited by Reesa Greenberg, Bruce W. Ferguson, and Sandy Nairne (Routledge, 1996), are just two of the contemporary art publications she has contributed to. A collection of her essays entitled Public Fantasy, edited by Iwona Blazwich, was published by the Institute of Contemporary Art in London in 1991. She has also written essays for a number of the catalogs accompanying her exhibitions as well as for many art journals.

Ms. Barry has been an Instructor in Sculpture at Cooper Union and has held visiting positions at Princeton University and MIT. From 2003 to 2005 she was a Professor at the Merz Academy in Stuttgart, Germany. Since 2004, she has been a Professor in and Director of Lesley University’s Art Institute of Boston.

Judith Barry lives and works in New York City and Berlin.


Scroll to Top