School of ArtProfessor Libby Black Processes the World Around Her By Recreating It
In the artist’s new exhibition, Black moves away from her signature representation of commercial goods to celebrating the labors behind everyday life.
SAN FRANCISCO — Libby Black’s show Returning to This Moment is really two exhibitions in one. On one side of Gallery 16’s generously proportioned exhibition space, all 106 of the drawings reproduced in her recently published book Some Women are on view, offering the opportunity for a side-by-side comparison of her ink and quill copies of images of women throughout time. These include many familiar, sometimes iconic works — from the Venus of Willendorf to a self-portrait by Laura Aguilar; Wyeth’s Christina’s World to Kara Walker’s Cut. This pandemic side project, completed between November 2019 and March 2020, is framed by Black’s deliberate inclusion of works by not only men and women, but also queer artists and artists of color. Her small yet powerful images — made to fit in a box on the kitchen table, a deeply personal investigation of art history — are canny, sometimes haunting interpretations. Black’s versions simplify her subjects into areas of wash, exploiting the ink’s velvety, deep blacks to draw attention to the important details, carefully lined with pen and brush. They are an artist’s notations, reminding both herself and us to remember the lessons being imparted by each one.