Sebastian Black: Star Material
This young artist is digging deep and stirring things up.
Every so often, Sebastian Black transforms his Brooklyn studio into an exhibition space, where he has shown work by Viola Yesiltac and Jacob Kassay. He calls the gallery Malraux’s Place—“as in Melrose,” says the 29-year-old artist. “Nobody gets it.” Whether it’s studio or gallery, the French theorist André Malraux or Heather Locklear, with Black, things are always open to interpretation. What have become known as his puppy paintings—mosaics of puzzle-piece-like shapes that suggest droopy faces with long ears—are actually thickly painted Rorschachian illusions: Is it a dog, or is it a female nude, or is it a geometric color study in homage to Josef Albers? Last year, at a show at Brooklyn’s Clearing gallery, he paired the works with filmy clothes designed by his girlfriend, India Donaldson—“costumes, to make you into a puppy painting,” Black says. And recently, at the Los Angeles gallery Cherry and Martin, he teamed them with smaller gouache works on paper—some made using old press releases, with fragments of letterhead and text still visible—that for him were places to put all the symbolic refuse that has been scrubbed off the larger canvases. “Things overlap,” he says. “It’s just a fact of existence.”