David Zwirner is pleased to present its first exhibition with Karla Black. On view at 519 West 19th Street in New York, the Glasgow-based sculptor presents a large-scale powder floor and a cellophane window, both made specifically for the space, as well as hanging and standing works made from paper.
Black creates abstract sculptures using a combination of everyday materials including powder, soap, gels, and pastes, along with more traditional media such as plaster, chalk, paint, and paper. Carefully arranged on the floor or suspended from the ceiling, they are typically made on site and include direct evidence of the process of their creation through fingerprints and dust. Delicate, messy, sensuous, and visceral, they testify to a physical experience of the world that lies beyond metaphorical and symbolic references. Poised between form and anti-form, they emerge like transitional states or naturally occurring sediments.
For this show, Black uses the main floor space to create a powdered environment featuring several individual sculptures. At once momentous and ephemeral in appearance, it comprises a monotone blue section towards the back and a white and pink striped area at the front, above which hang 340 strands of Sellotape. Their glistening transparency, which is regularly interrupted by the artist's visible fingerprints, is animated by light and stands in contrast to the opaqueness of the powder. Both are complemented by chalked paper sculptures; crumbled volumes that seem as if they float in air or could topple over at any moment. Yet despite the uncertain physicality of these works–their shapeless, loose formations and arbitrary surfaces–they have a strong sculptural presence and materiality. As the art historian Briony Fer notes, in Black’s practice "[s]culpture is redistributed along an axis that dissolves structure through the twin operations of transparency and pulverization."¹
A cellophane sculpture at the entrance of the gallery space forms a "window" into the room. Innumerous creases alternately reflect and refract light, continuously shifting attention between themselves and the surrounding space. Rather than contradictory, the immaterial and the material coexist in Black's work, as do the readymade and the handmade, the elaborate and the simple, the decorative and the raw, amongst other seeming opposites. They come together to create a highly personalized version of contemporary sculpture, and by extension, of art itself.
¹Briony Fer, "Karla Black’s abstraction," Karla Black: Scotland + Venice. Exh. cat. (Glasgow: The Fruitmarket Gallery, 2011; published on the occasion of the artist's solo presentation at the 54th Venice Biennale), n.p.