Barbash was born in New York in 1933. He studied at the Art Students League of New York in 1951 with Yascuo Kuniyoshi and from 1951-1955 attended Bard College. He received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and a Master of Fine Arts degree while attending the School of Art and Architecture at Yale University from 1957-1960.
For the next ten years, Barbash taught at Juniata College in Huntingdon, PA. Following his years at Huntingdon, he served as Professor and Chairman of the Art Department at the State University College in Cortland, NY. He has been the recipient of several scholarships and grants, including the John Bard Scholarship in 1954 and the SUNY Research Grant in both 1985 and 1987.