Karla Black

The New Art Gallery Walsall, England
May 12 — November 29, 2023

Karla Black uses a recognisable lexicon of materials, from commercial products such as cotton wool, make-up, Vaseline and jewellery boxes to those usually found in fine art: powder paint, cartridge paper, watercolour ink, chalk, and cellophane. These loose, raw, folded or contained materials become ‘work’ site-specifically, leading to forms that hang, hover, rise, scatter, heap, leap and spread.


Utilising the Gallery’s large open plan rooms, Black has made two, multi-faceted, room-size works and a number of singular sculptures including Study the Method of the Theft, 2023, a wall-based sculpture comprising 100 jewellery boxes filled with paint and make-up. The works absorb into them Black’s interest in post-modernist art, Greek philosophy and ancient history, in particular the architecture, politics and landscape of Plato’s Academy, the first institution of higher learning in the western world, to the exclusion of women.


Dozens of bulbous paper mounds soaked in watercolour ink and robe-like objects form a singular work at the centre of the exhibition, The Academy, 2023. With this work, Black pays homage to French-American artist Louise Bourgeouis’ 1974 work, The Destruction of the Father, in form and as a feminist stance. Home From the Academy, 2023, is a looser, abstract work running the length of the gallery, made of ragged paper and spherical cosmetics briskly rubbed and rolled across undulating layers of cotton wool, paper and powder. These room-filling works inform, affect, and contrast each other, involving the viewer in a bodily way.


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April 1, 2023
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