Karla Black

Karla Black, Installationsansich, Kunstverein in Hamburg, 2009 Foto: Fred Dott

Karla Black

The works of the Scottish artist Karla Black (*1972, lives in Glasgow) are almost always created in situ because they are so fragile. In her exhibition at the Kunstverein in Hamburg, her works respond both to the exhibition space and to the installations by Kostis Velonis that have so far been on display on the upper floor. She repositions some of his works, removing others from the exhibition space to stage her own works in this framework. It is not a matter of collaboration but highly charged interaction between two artistic positions, revealing the conditions of exhibition.

Karla Black receives visitors with two large-format works: some two tonnes of powdered plaster are spread across the floor to form the work Persuader Face, backed by the hanging sculpture Don’t Attach, Delay. Together they constitute an almost landscape-like emptiness whose grandeur directly confronts the viewer. What is striking at first glance is the beauty of the works, the attractiveness of the material, and the harmonious composition. A second glance betrays small secrets: for instance, pink pieces of paper are visible in one corner of the floor work. They are covered by stain-like discolourations produced with cosmetic materials such as lipstick, eyeshadow, and hairspray. The distinctly feminine personal care products, normally used for beauty care, are a disruptive factor in this context.

The hanging sculpture Don’t Attach, Delay presents itself initially as a closed, white surface with a small piece of cellophane foil attached to the end with apricot coloured marks. It gives focus to the extensive sculpture, breaching and irritating the rectangular shape. With the floor work, the sculpture constitutes a dense ensemble marking the transition from a particular to a universal discourse. Two further works by Karla Black enter into high-contrast dialogue with the works of Kostis Velonis, intensifying the stage-like nature of his architectural settings. The organic, seemingly hovering sculpture Pleaser by Karla Black is the opposite pole to Velonis’ wooden, geometrical structures.

In her works, Black draws on Minimal Art strategies. She embraces the principles of work presence and the participation of the viewer, who is directly involved in a process of bodily thinking. She extends her works to include a material and form language that recalls anti-form tendencies and which escape classical assignment to a particular medium. Her works are situated at the interface between painting, installation, performance, and sculpture. In the psychoanalytical tradition of Melanie Klein, Black prefers communication by means of material and form rather than language. The viewer is required to discover the work in a physical approach. The linguistic level is secondary.

In the fall of 2009 we will jointly publish with migros museum, Zurich, Modern Art Oxford and Inverleith House in Edinburgh the first extensive catalogue of Karla Black.