Denée Black
5/6/10 1:45 PM

Bingo cards, recipe fragments, pages from a book on particle physics, graph paper and a woman in a black lace negligee—what’s it all got to do with one another? The woman is Denée Black, a fact deduced from the work’s title, “Self-Portrait Study.” The other bits and pieces form some of the collage backdrop to the artist’s multiple images of herself, and since the work is a self-portrait, they ought to communicate something of her personality and life. Perhaps she’s a regular at bingo night, a killer cook, a science hobbyist, a graphic designer, a sexpot? It’s admittedly hard to know if these background materials should be read for personal data or if instead they’re just there because they look good (in which case I suppose they reveal something of the artist’s formal tastes, but then so do all works of art). Another work by Black, “Mi Series #1,” presents some of the same materials, minus the picture of the artist, in a charming enough abstract composition that recalls Kurt Schwitters’s merz pictures of the 1920s. Schwitters picked his materials up off the streets and arranged them into dynamic formal compositions—no pretense there of individual scraps bearing meaning. The ambiguity here is that in one of Black’s pictures they seem to, while in another they don’t. But all materials, intentionally or not, are containers of meaning. It’s up to the artist to be sure that those meanings are, well, meaningfully used.

—Lori Waxman
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