Karla Black at Irish Museum of Modern Art


Karla Black, Likeness, 2015, mixed media, 70⅞" x 59" x 43¼".

Karla Black, Likeness, 2015, mixed media, 70⅞" x 59" x 43¼".


The largest work in Scottish artist Karla Black’s engaging if frothy show was entitled Prospects (all works 2015) and featured a line of 20 plaster tree trunks topped with huge billows of clear cellophane. They were planted in a bed of carefully molded soil, which, like the trees, had been colored with pastel spray paint and what the catalogue describes as lip liner and eyeliner pencil. Existing, like much of Black’s work, at the juncture of solidity and dissolution, Prospects presented a charming, whimsical confection that, with its combination of heft and puff, played with the viewer’s expectations of volume and mass.

Black’s sculptures came close to pure insubstantiality in Likeness and two other works made of translucent polyethylene tissues dusted with lavender, yellow, and baby-blue powdered paint. Hanging from almost invisible threads, rustling at the slightest breath, and suffused with paint so barely there it looked like it could have been applied with a perfume spritzer, these sculptures suggested clouds or perhaps airborne plastic shopping bags.

The cloud metaphor became explicit in Fed, in which Black bundled cotton wool into hanging envelopes of edible sugar paper painted with blue-and-white sky patterns worthy of a Baroque landscape. Like her other works, they managed to carry a certain aesthetic weight while looking light as cotton candy.

A version of this story originally appeared in the October 2015 issue of ARTnews on page 94.

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