Karla Black - Material world
The perfect storm of grease, dust and cotton wool towelled onto the floor and hanging from ceiling tiles that forms the bulk of Karla Black’s show is something of an assault to eyes not used to squalor. The natural urge is to tidy everything up. Under these conditions, you either have to accept that there’s some kind of insane order here or else flee the scene.
While Black’s intention can be guessed at, you really need to look at the catalogue of works to fully understand what the artist is up to here. Pieces such as ‘Surplus is a Given’ (a smear of white and spotted orange oil stretched into trackmarks across the floor of one gallery) and ‘Strength is an End’ (a scree of pink dust piles kicked and trampled in places, and smeared away by a long strip of Sellotape) are made up of high street cosmetics. The oil is moisturiser and petroleum jelly, the dust – described as ‘chalk dust’ in the literature – could perhaps be the kind used in a compact. Toilet paper and cotton wool also find their way into other works.
Black describes her work as sculpture rather than installation, but it’s in their profoundly site-specific nature that these pieces suffer – the contrast with the gallery’s old wooden floors is perhaps not so striking as it might be in a stark-white, antiseptic modern room. Yet Pearl Buck’s assertion that ‘order is the shape upon which beauty depends’ is precisely inverted here, a lack of order creating something beguilingly ugly.
Mary Mary, Glasgow, until Sat 14 Feb