Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Studio Visit: Libby Black

Studio Visit with Libby Black
Berkeley, CA

Libby Black, an artist from Toledo, Ohio and a CCA MFA 2001 graduate, is a good friend of mine and a great artist, and plus, you might have even heard of her!  Her resume boasts some pretty impressive exhibitions, including solo shows at Marx and Zavattero in SF, Charlie James in LA, the San Francisco Arts Commission, and the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art.  She was also included in the Bay Area Now 4 at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in SF, the 2004 California Biennial in Orange County, and exhibitions at the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio,TX, the Oakland Museum of California, Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum, and Peres Projects in LA, to name a few!  

Libby and I met while she was working as the Studio Manager at CCA and I was a student.  Now she is a professor there and I have her old job! (Congrats to both of us!)  We are friends because we like to draw, scour fashion magazines, talk about nothing, and drink wine.

We have also shown together twice in 2011, at Marx and Zavattero in SF and at Underline Gallery in NY, partly because the themes in our work are similar (fashion and fantasy), and partly because we are both women making drawings and paintings which are decidedly more feminine than the traditional man art of that bygone but still popular age of Modern Art.  You would think this work would be fairly normal in contemporary art, but as the trend pendulum swings constantly, "female" art like drawing comes in and out of fashion, and leaves those of us doing it as the last of the old guard or the pioneers of a new age, depending on how you look at it.  

In addition to drawing and painting, Libby makes paper sculptures, which she is most well known for. I posted my visit to her San Jose ICA show here, where she made an entire weight room out of luxury work out gear.  Her sculptures make a strong statement, easily recognized; a painted, handcrafted version of a coveted item questions the fetishized associations with these high end items, like a stack of Louis Vuitton luggage or even a Chanel canoe.  Seeing a paper version brings a bit of humor to the concepts of classism and greed, but also leaves ambiguity for the artist.  Is she for or against these things?  Maybe it's both.  In fact, I know it's both, because we talk about it all the time!  

Recently Libby has become much more invested in her paintings, so we spent most of the studio visit checking out her new work on canvas and paper.  The images she chooses to paint are more complicated for the viewer, which makes them all the more interesting for her to make and to discuss. It makes one wonder, too, how much the economy plays a part in how we perceive tropes of wealth, and perhaps like the fashion of art, the pendulum swings away from sore subjects like money for now.  Libby will be showing at Charlie James and Marx and Zavattero in the coming year.

Libby shares studio space in a brightly-lit building with a number of other Berkeley artists.
Peering inside
A real bike and a paper bike, and above a painting of Warhol's paintbrush.
Working on a new drawing
Her Marc Jacobs animals, a little painting, and an encouraging postcard from her  friend, Anne.
Some paper sculptures in the works, and some from the "Work Out" show.

Some new Manet-inspired flower paintings, and a Westwood penis shoe.
Work in progress- an awkward lesbian kiss from the movie "Desert Hearts".

A sculture Libby made as a kid and here she is in clown face paint!

I love this skeleton drawing.
Just some flowers, a flamingo, and a lady crotch.

Success!  Checking out her finished piece.
Thanks Libby!

(image of vanity case from her website)

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