Thank you to our friends at InTheMake for the great blog post on Libby Black. Here prints on ArtStar can be found HERE
“Our lives are marked by monumental events and spectacular disasters...mundane moments, small pleasures, and frivolous distractions. The act of drawing and painting these images is an attempt to preserve moments that are already gone or to find meaningful connections between arbitrary things.”
I first encountered Libby’s work online, specifically, a 2007 sculptural installation called Work Out— a life-sized replica of a home gym that included a Prada stationary bike, a Louis Vuitton bench press, a Burberry punching bag and a Chanel weight belt, all made from paper, paint and hot glue. I thought the installation was hilarious. And I allowed myself to stay amused by it for a good while before I felt the need to consider it more critically. It’s nice sometimes to just think something is funny and not know exactly how to explain why. But the comedic effect ofWork Out is interesting to mull over— is a gym funny? Are luxury goods or carefully rendered paper sculptures funny? No, none of these things make me laugh out loud (though sometimes luxury goods make me smirk from time to time)— it’s the convergence of these things that elicits the laughter. When our desires, indulgences, pleasures, and all the branding and products that capitalize on them are taken out of their usual context (and brought to let’s say, a gym!) a protective veneer quickly falls away and an element of the absurd is revealed, and we are forced to wrangle with how and why we consume, and why we ALWAYS seem to be in a state of wanting.
Recently, Libby has moved away from her earlier, more explicit explorations of high-end luxury, exclusivity, and the impulses of desire to investigate quieter pleasures in life, such as cut flowers and time to read. This work is much more ambiguous and subtle, featuring objects that hint at both an intimate personal narrative and a collective one— particular book titles, celebrity icons, and media headlines point to her own affinities and those of our culture at large, and ask us to consider how we string together events and objects in our lifetime to create meaning. With the works on paper and paintings she’s currently working on she’s also addressing the heartbreaking nature of time, and the fact that though we can revisit significant moments, we can never truly go back.
When we visited Libby in her Berkeley home studio she told us she grew up in an environment that promoted the ethos that if you looked good, you were good. Obviously, I think much of Libby’s work pushes against that notion and sometimes overtly makes fun of it, especially in some of her earlier sculptural installations. But, Libby also conceded that though she often approaches themes dealing with luxury, branding, and desire with sharp-edged humor and a healthy dose of mistrust, she recognizes that she is also just as susceptible to all the wanting. This push and pull in both Libby’s past and present work is what I think is most interesting— the simultaneous evocation of attraction and repulsion, loss and recovery, distance and proximity… holding all those opposing forces at once seems very real to me.
What mediums do you work with? Pencil, acrylic, gouache, hot glue, oil paint, and canvas.
How would you describe your subject matter or the content of your work? I remake high-end luxury goods out of paper, acrylic paint, and hot glue. I also make drawings and paintings. My current work is based on imagery culled from disparate sources like fashion magazines, snapshots, newspapers, pop culture websites, television, movies and still lifes that I have staged.