Karla Black: sculptures (2001–2021) details for a retrospective (4 stars)

Karla Black: sculptures (2001–2021) details for a retrospective

View of Karla Black retrospective / credit: Tom Nolan

Turner-nominated artist opens the refurbished Fruitmarket with an exhibition of endless possibilities

Fruitmarket and Karla Black go way back. Ten years ago, the two collaborated on her Scotland + Venice showcase for the 2011 Venice Biennale in the same year that Black received her Turner Prize nomination. Now a decade on, it's a fitting, poignant reunion to have Karla Black: sculptures (2001–2021) details for a retrospective as the very first exhibition held in the newly-expanded Fruitmarket, which reopened earlier this summer after being closed for two years due to refurbishment work.

Fruitmarket's refreshed white galleries are populated with abstract sculptural works spanning Black's 20-year career, and these light, airy rooms allow her signature palette of barely-there pinks, greens and blues to come into their full power. One particularly inspired moment happens in the upper gallery with 'Punctuation is pretty popular: nobody wants to admit to much' (2008/2021), when the pink powder covering the floor glows from the light flowing in through the overhead windows, causing the walls to sweetly blush.

The selection of works on display highlights Black's enduring fascination with the energy of creative play, an energy that continually teeters on the edge of disintegration. Hanging cellophane works like 'Don't Depend' (2011) seem to hover at the moment of dissolution, and standing sculpture 'Adds Up' (2017) sandwiches Vaseline between panes of glass, suggestive of paint that will never dry. But one surprising revelation is how another abiding aspect of Black's practice – the way she plunders equally from arts shops and Boots for materials – now gains added resonance after a year of lockdowns. Her ability to find inspiration in items as mundane as toothpaste and Gaviscon feels more touching than ever.

But Black's new work 'Waiver For Shade' (2021) marks a considerable tonal shift. Specially commissioned for The Warehouse (Fruitmarket's new exhibition space), the piece sees her pivot to earthy soils and gold leaf, creating marks and mounds on the floor and exposed brick walls. Rather than a suspended moment of flux, here there is a sense of a procession that has passed us by, which we've missed by a moment. It feels fitting then that, despite the title of the exhibition, those involved are keen to stress that this is not actually a retrospective. Retrospective exhibitions are typically considered a lofty hallmark to someone's career, one which imposes a fixed narrative upon a body of work and an artist's development. Here we see that all possibilities are still very much in play.

Karla Black: sculptures (2001–2021) details for a retrospective, Fruitmarket, until Sunday 24 October, 11am–6pm, free; advance booking required.

Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the information displayed here is accurate, always check with the venue before attending (especially during the Covid-19 pandemic).

Karla Black: sculptures (2001–2021) details for a retrospective

  • 4 stars

Scottish artist Karla Black is the first artist to exhibit in the new Fruitmarket. Sculpture made since 2001 fills the lower galleries with standing, hanging and low-lying volumes and planes made with the artist’s signature cellophane, paper, pastes, oils, creams and gels. This sets the stage for a spreading powder piece…

Fruitmarket, Edinburgh

Sun 24 Oct

Free / 0131 225 2383

Part of Edinburgh Art Festival.