500 Capp Street Foundation: The Way Things Are Also by Libby Black

September 10-October 8, 2022
With works by Maryam Safanasab, AJ Serrano and Nicole Shaffer

A painter, draftsman and sculptural installation artist based in Berkeley, Libby Black explores the everyday to find meaning, tracing a path through personal history and broader cultural context to explore the intersection of politics, feminism, LGBTQ+ identity, consumerism, and more.

For his solo exhibition at 500 Capp Street, The Way Things Also Are, Black draws inspiration from the home, archives, artistic practice and legacy of late conceptual artist David Ireland to reveal and offer untold narratives in domestic spaces and the Maison’s collection. Black digs up women in Irish records; proposes its own queer/lesbian framework for the House; makes visible Ireland’s often overlooked, never-before-exhibited early figure drawings; and creates a space for three emerging artists to respond to. The title of the exhibition, The Way Things Also Are, is a nod to the title of the catalog, The Way Things Are, which accompanied the first retrospective of Irish work in 2004 at the Oakland Museum of California.

Black shares with Ireland a deep interest in common household objects such as crockery, brooms and chairs. His sculptural works are scale recreations of these objects made of paper, pencil, hot glue and acrylic paint. She places them in still life arrangements, creating hybrids that mix the real and the imaginary. She also produces two-dimensional paintings and drawings based on images drawn from disparate sources from her daily life, as well as journals and books.

To underline the artists’ shared interest in everyday objects, at Black’s request, The David Ireland House is bringing back the much-loved Broom collection from Ireland with Boom, 1978/1988, which will be on loan from SFMOMA for the duration of the year. Black’s exposition, then beyond. until the end of the year. The last time the work was exhibited at the Maison was for its public opening in 2016. Black is creating free-standing paper broom sculptures that will stand in formation in the front salon next to this rare exhibit. Irish work.

In the bedrooms of the House, Black uses the mattresses as landscapes to explore a strange setting, creating a new narrative in the space next to and in correspondence with the works of Ireland. Spilled paper buckets on the beds allude to orifices, intimacy, and the depiction of two women in love while alluding to work, women’s work, and stereotypes of gender roles in the household.

From Ireland’s collection of archived show announcements, catalogs and magazines, Black has excavated those relating to female artists, bringing them out of the boxes to make them visible in the House through a series of paintings and drawings. which incorporate the archived materials.

Black also pulled from the collection several early Irish works ever exhibited, a number of character designs that reveal a softer side to Irish artwork, such as a pencil sketch of a shirt hanging from a hook. Black writes of her: “So lifeless, yet so full of life. Trying to be nothing but a shirt that hangs down, abandons itself and offers its folds so that we can see all its vulnerability.

Citing Ireland’s role as an educator and her own, Black creates space for three up-and-coming local artists from San Francisco State University: Maryam Safanasab, AJ Serrano and Nicole Shaffer. For Black, the inclusion of their pieces “grounds us in the present with the threads of 500 Capp Street’s rich history.” She further states, “I chose these three artists because each dealt in their own way with issues of location and identity that were important to me. I got to know them and their artistic practices through my work at SF State, and wanted to share the space with them and support them.

Libby Black has exhibited nationally and internationally, with shows such as California Love at Galerie Droste in Wuppertal, Germany; Bay Area Now 4 at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts; California Biennale at the Orange County Museum of Art; and in numerous galleries in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. She received a BFA from the Cleveland Institute of Art in 1999 and an MFA from the California College of the Arts in 2001. Black is an assistant professor at San Francisco State University.

David Ireland’s Broom with Boom collection, 1978/1988, is one of David Ireland’s most recognized works of assemblage and sculpture. The work was a centerpiece at 500 Capp Street for nearly three decades before it was acquired by SFMOMA in 2007. It is made up of old salvaged brooms left behind by the House’s former owner, accordionist Paul Greub. These are wired together in a ring and arranged in a clock formation. The brooms stand on their bristles and are arranged from the least worn to the most worn in a counterweight, stabilized by a pole. Ireland viewed this work as a social sculpture as he felt brooms were a social instrument of Greub’s everyday existence.

Image credit: Libby Black, stacked scrub brushes, banana, lemon and nail clippers. 10″x5″x7″ paper, acrylic paint and glue. 2022.

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