Kate Carr

Santa Fe

at Box Gallery


In her recent works, Kate Carr stacks same-sized pieces of fabric or plywood—common utilitarian materials—so only their edges are visible. The resulting sculptures appear to be stacked lines, one of the factors informing the exhibition’s title, “Lineland,” along with its suggestion of a terrain constructed or mapped line by line. While size is determined intuitively, the characteristics of each material—soft or hard, pliable or rigid—affect the orientation, surface variation and contour of each stack.

In a series of six small fabric wall sculptures from 2009, starched and layered cotton calls up the domestic environment and never-ending routines of household chores, and the repetitive gestures inherent in women’s traditional needle arts. Carr’s stacking, which suggests an accumulated record of time and activity, is performative, although the emphasis is on the resulting object, rather than on the process itself as art. In her studio, Carr dips fabric into diluted non-toxic liquid starch (to give it body and control fraying along the edges), lets it dry, irons it flat, then cuts it into desired shapes. These are threaded onto a metal rod that functions as a hidden armature providing internal support and a means to hang the work. The configuration is sprayed with starch, unruly threads are trimmed, and the piece is ready for hanging.

Floor Stack (2008), comprising pieces of plywood laminated horizontally into a slab, relates, by contrast, to masculinist histories of woodworking. Torqued as a result of its construction process, it sits slightly askew on invisible supports that raise it an inch off the floor, creating a floating effect that contradicts its apparent weight. By painting selected lamination lines pale pink, Carr inserts a playful feminine presence into what is otherwise a seriously minimal object. In this and other ways, Carr assumes the right to move freely between esthetic territories and materials.

Elsewhere, she juxtaposes or combines cotton and plywood. In Planks (1-7), 2009, seven equidistant 12-inch-wide planks of smooth Baltic birch plywood, just under 5 feet high, rest on the floor and lean against the wall; five are presented frontally and two are propped along the side wall, engaging the corner as part of the piece. Their partially painted surfaces are inlaid with horizontal bands of felt and thin strips of starched cotton, offering shifts in color and texture. Carr cut the tops and bottoms of the planks at angles, so they seamlessly join the wall and floor, thereby reducing their objectness and emphasizing their function as bridges or connectors that engage the space between the traditional sites of painting and sculpture.

Carr’s work pays homage to Eva Hesse and continues the lineage of “material girls”—feminist artists of the early ’70s who consciously brought gendered content to Post-Minimalist concerns. At the same time, she participates in current conversations regarding the theory of craft.

Photo: Kate Carr: Planks (rear), 2009, plywood, felt, cotton and acrylic, approx. 12 by 60 feet, with Floor Stack (foreground), 2008, plywood and acrylic, 12 by 58 by 16 feet; at Box Gallery.