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PRINT March 2008

OPENINGS: KARLA BLACK

THERE ARE MANY TERMS in the lexicon of not quite: tentative, provisional, diffident. None of these describe Karla Black. To be sure, there is a natural fragility to her base materials (brown paper, sugar paper, cellophane, glass, polyethylene), and much that she applies to their surfaces is amorphous (chalk and plaster dust, petroleum jelly, makeup, foot spray, hair spray). But the spatial command of her work is authoritative. This has been so from the start of Black’s career, when she focused on performance. I first encountered her at this stage, at the end of the 1990s; she was a student at the Glasgow School of Art, where she had made a video of herself grappling with a large quantity of bread dough. Speaking of this work now, Black acknowledges the important example provided by the performances of Bobby Baker, which are structured around endlessly repeated domestic activities such as

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