Critics’ Picks

Libby Black, Me And Bobby McGee, 2010, pencil on paper, 33 x 25".

Libby Black, Me And Bobby McGee, 2010, pencil on paper, 33 x 25".

San Francisco

Libby Black

Marx & Zavattero
77 Geary St., Second Floor
March 20–April 24, 2010

Economic crises have, thankfully, given artists a reason to restyle the lens through which we view luxury brands. Even Takashi Murakami favored Zen over Louis Vuitton in recent work. Libby Black carved out a career during recent years tracking consumer aspiration by re-creating (or inventing) designer-label objects—Chanel surfboards, an entire Kate Spade boutique––from paper, hot glue, and acrylic paint, as well as imperfectly redrawing well-selected fashion magazine ads. Her niche might be called psychologically charged DIY consumer satire, and her work reflects real desires and disappointments. It’s heartening to report that Black’s latest exhibition of sculpture, painting, and drawing aptly limns a moment in which global consumers trendily downscale back to the land. Goyard Recyclable, 2009, for example, is a modestly scaled gouache-on-paper depiction of a pricey handbag filled with organic veggies, while two other works—one drawing, one sculpture––depict little garden shovels with monogrammed handles. It’s amazing how the thought of soil cuts the glare of conspicuous consumption—as do reduced price points (see Vans Shoebox, 2010).

This time around, Black also reveals more personal sides of consumer motivation. Forbidden Fruit Basket, 2010, is a sculptural still life of zippered Hermès coin purses—Claes Oldenburg meets Carmen Miranda—but when seen in context with a series of gouaches of lesbian pulp novel covers (one titled Libby), desire is pinpointed, and superbly evoked, particularly in the pencil drawing Me and Bobby McGee, 2010, a nude self-portrait of the artist as a bead-wearing Janis Joplin. That celebrity was an icon, and here she seems appropriated the way the Gap used a khaki-ed Steve McQueen in past advertisements. Black’s ownership of Joplin points to an investment more valuable than endorsement fees.