(selected by Sarah Lowndes)
Opportunities For Girls, 2006
Glasgow artist Karla Black makes process-based sculptural pieces, often using familiar domestic materials such as Vaseline, clothing and flour. Both her ingredients and her method - intensive periods spent meticulously creating abstract tableaux - inevitably evoke feminine occupations such as baking and nursing. The combination of rigorous method and fragility found in Eva Hesse's sculptures from the late 1960s provides the background against which Black charts her site-specific interventions.
Although Black's art projects ideas about healing, the ritualistic element of her practice is more self-conscious than it was to those earlier Performance artists she admires, such as Carolee Schneemann or Gunter Brus. Although previously Black made public performances, her work now exists as an installation artefact, or as a kind of indirect self-portrait. Sarah Lowndes, March 2005
Karla Black - statement
While there are ideas about psychological and emotional developmental processes held within the sculptures I make, the things themselves are actual physical explorations into thinking, feeling, communicating and relating. They are parts of an ongoing learning, or search for understanding, through a material experience that has been prioritised over language.
The finished work has a looseness and messiness that is allowed to exist within an overall attempt at simplicity, purity, cleanness or smoothness. The sculptures are rooted in Psychoanalysis and Feminism; in theories about the violent and sexual underpinnings of both individual mental mess, as in neuroses and psychosis, and the formlessness of specific points in art history, i. e. German and Abstract Expressionism, Viennese Actionism, Land Art, Anti-form and Feminist Performance.
Materials I have used include medicines for minor ailments, packaging, old clothes, carpets, foodstuffs, household cleaners, toiletries and make-up. These softer elements are often used along with harder or more structural and traditional art-making materials like plaster, glass, wood, cardboard, mirror, paper and paint.
Recently I have taken the formless materials through a process of tentative repression, and have been concentrating, through very specific colours and qualities of surface, on the level of attractiveness in the various sculptures made. There is often a physical struggle involved in arriving at the structure of a sculpture that then solidifies itself into an idea about, or an overall attitude towards what could be called conflict resolution or emotional and practical/technical problem-solving. Known rules and techniques are intentionally not learned or adhered to. Instead, more haphazard, individual methods are found. This can be seen in the sculptures as evidence of touch or something close to performative gesture. The hope is that the work can elicit at least an impetus towards physical response.
Essentially, then, I make different configurations with or from mess or formless matter (that which is in a pre-object type state), and from waste or used materials (that which is left post-object) , as well as from straightforward art store materials. None of the work is purely gestural, since there is always intent, a support (plinth/frame/stage/structure), and evidence of a decision-making process; the finished things are almost objects, or only just objects. While nearly being performances, installations or paintings, the works actually retain a large amount of the autonomy of modernist sculpture. However, what exists in between mediums attracts me. This area of study feels like a place where negotiations begin; somewhere that I can go to listen as well as speak. It is important, however, that what the work becomes in the end is sculpture. Sculpture as a category is its root, its limitations and its discipline. This is because sculpture is real. It is completely in the world, and therefore has the capacity at least to attempt to withhold the offer of travel elsewhere through an imaginary optical/ cerebral escape or engulfment. Sculpture inherently lends itself to forcing an initially physical/emotional acceptance, confrontation or engagement.
The work is, to a certain extent, site specific in that I respond, albeit vaguely, to a gallery space or at least think about where the objects will end up before and during making them. The sculptures are never really finished until they are in place, and are often unavoidably destroyed or broken when an exhibition is over, then remade slightly differently elsewhere.
Karla Black September 2006
Karla Black (b. 1972) studied at Glasgow School of Art and the Stadelschule, Frankfurt, and has exhibited nationally and internationally. Recent exhibitions include Works on Paper, Art: Concept, Paris, 2007; Planting the Tele, curated by Hayley Tompkinis, Mary Mary, Glasgow, 2007; Galerie Sandra Buergel, Berlin (solo), 2006; Mary Mary, Glasgow (solo), 2006; Outpost, Norwich (solo), 2006; Have Him Be Her, Broadway 1602, New York (solo), 2006; Karla Black, Sally Osborn, Sue Tompkins, Flaca, London, 2006; Karla Black, Dean Hughes, Duncan Marquiss, Jonathan Owen, Hanneline Visnes, Doggerfisher, Edinburgh, 2006; Pilot 2, London, 2005; Like It Matters, CCA, Glasgow, 2005; Exile, New York is a Good Hotel, Broadway 1602, New York, 2005; Not Yet Night, Studio Voltaire, London, 2005.
Upcoming shows include Modern Art, London in April, and a solo exhibition at IBID Projects, London in October. She is represented by Mary Mary, Glasgow and lives and works in Glasgow.
Galerie Sandra Buergel, Berlin
Review, Karla Black (Frieze, March 2005)
Black's art is not only about the body, it also speaks to and of the surrounding space. Black's solo exhibition at Mary Mary, Glasgow (2004) reflects and amplifies its setting, in a tenement bedroom... read on