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Exhibitions > Recent Exhibitions

Karla Black

1 May – 26 July 2015

Karla Black, Installation view, Prospects, 2015, plaster, cellophane, Sellotape, pencil, lip liner, eyeliner pencil, green concealer, spray paint, soil, 235 x 200 x 1860 cm. Courtesy the artist and Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne. © Karla Black, Photo: © Denis Mortell.

Karla Black is regarded as one of the pioneering contemporary artists of her generation. A Turner Prize nominee in 2011, she practices a kind of lyrical autonomous sculpture, influenced by psychoanalysis, feminism and its impact on visual art. Black’s work draws from a multiplicity of artistic traditions from expressionist painting, land art, performance, to formalism.  Black questions the rigours of sculptural form and her large-scale sculptures incorporate modest everyday substances, along with very traditional art-making materials to create abstract formations.

The site-specific exhibition at IMMA will present Karla Black’s extraordinary creative output, revealing the artist’s constant challenges to prevailing concepts of sculpture. Her interest in process has led her to expand the possibilities of whichever material she employs; from plaster, polythene, chalk dust and powder to eye-shadow, nail varnish, fake tan or toothpaste. Black chooses her media for their tactile aesthetic appeal: the familiarity of the texture of cellophane or the scent of cosmetics bridges the experience of tangible matter with the intimacy of memory of the subconscious. Black’s working process is intensely physical and this energy is conveyed through works that emphasise her free, experimental working method, combined with the editing, muting and reigning in of careful aesthetic judgement. Each element in her assemblages  interconnects physical, psychological, and theoretical stimuli which are both self-referential and relate to art as a wider-world experience.

Experimenting with ways to float material, form and colour at eye level remains a constant preoccupation in Black’s work, and this preoccupation remains as a thread in the exhibition at IMMA, which will present Black’s extraordinary creative output through a series of new works tailored for the spaces at IMMA.

Karla Black has stated in relation to her forthcoming exhibition at IMMA ‘I am preoccupied with trying to find ways to float material, form and colour at eye level. Over the years, I have discovered makeshift sculptural solutions that allow this to happen, while actively avoiding the obvious traditional tropes – painting a canvas and putting it on a wall, placing an object on a plinth or shelf etc. This preoccupation remains as I develop experimentation for the IMMA show’.

Black has said previously of her work: ‘While there are ideas about psychological and emotional developmental processes held within the sculptures I make, the things themselves are actual physical explorations into thinking, feeling, communicating and relating’.

The exhibition is accompanied by a guide, which you can click here to download (pdf).

About the Artist

Karla Black (b. 1972 Alexandria, Scotland) lives and works in Glasgow. She attended The Glasgow School of Art (1995–2000 and 2002–04), completing BA (Hons), MPhil (Art in Organisational Contexts), and MFA degrees. In 2011, Black represented Scotland at the 54th Venice Biennale (Karla Black. Scotland and Venice) and was nominated for the Turner Prize. Karla Black has recently made solo exhibitions at institutions including Kestnergesellschaft, Hannover, Germany (2014); Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, PA, USA, and Gemeentemuseum, The Hague, Netherlands (both 2013); Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, TX, USA; Schinkel Pavillon, Berlin, Germany and Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow (all 2012); Kunsthalle Nürnberg, Nuremberg, Germany (2010); Modern Art Oxford, Oxford; Kunstverein Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany and Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zurich, Switzerland (2009), among others. Her works are held within many prestigious collections worldwide including the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh; The Hammer Museum, LA; Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zurich; and Tate Gallery, London.

Artist Statement

The sculptures I make are either almost objects or only just objects. I skirt In between mediums, and the works are often nearly paintings, nearly installations, nearly performance art but always, in the end, very definitely sculptures.

Sculpture is most exciting to me when it stays close to the physical truth that the object is a fallacy.  I like to think about how everything in the physical world is either flying together or flying apart as in mass becomes energy becomes mass becomes energy again.  From our limited, human perception of time we can't actually see that happening but that doesn't change the fact that it is happening I like to retard the potential of the material within the sculpture, so that it retains its energy and its capacity for transformation.
I prioritise material experience over language as a way to learn about and understand the world.To me, for all its obvious accomplishments, language is an inadequate and primitive tool.
(Karla Black, 2015)

Media Resources

Video: Karen Sweeney (Exhibitions, IMMA) introduces Karla Black’s dynamic new body of sculptural work. Watch now.

Talks and Events

Listen to Karla Black in conversation with Rachael Thomas (Head of Exhibtions, IMMA) talking about her site-specific sculptural installations. Recorded 30 April 2015 at IMMA.

What is Scultpure...? | Sinead Hogan
Saturday 9 May 2015 12.00 - 1.00pm, Lecture Room, IMMA
In conjunction with the exhibitions, Karla Black and Gerda Frömel at IMMA, Sinead Hogan (Lecturer, IADT) presents What is Sculpture...? This talk considers new definitions of sculpture throughout art history and explores how contemporary forms of ‘expanded sculpture’ demands that the viewer question the very object-nature of art. Listen to a recording of the talk here

Gallery Talk
Wednesday 20 May 2015, 1.15 – 2.00pm, East Wing Galleries

Karen Sweeney (Exhibitions, IMMA) leads a gallery talk on Karla Black's dynamic new body of sculptural work created for the gallery spaces of IMMA. Blacks ideas, processes and unique sensibility with everyday materials will be explored.

This exhibition is presented with the kind support of:


Irish Museum of Modern Art, Royal Hospital, Kilmainham, Dublin 8, Ireland
Tel: +353-1-6129900, Email:
info@imma.ie