“Often the assumption with Black and Brown artists is that we’re going to present a physical representation of what Blackness or Brownness, or identity, is,” Karyn Olivier told Bomb this April. “So when we don’t, it thwarts those expectations.” Born in Trinidad and Tobago and raised in New York, Olivier mainly makes installations—several are prominent public works—and elegant sculptures that are primarily non-representational but nonetheless haunted by the figurative.
Upon entering her current solo show, at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, one encounters Fortified, an imposing wall—12 feet high and 20 feet in length—made from steel and brick. Undercutting its stability, however, are colorful socks, sleeves, scarves, gloves, T-shirts, and shoestrings, which thread across the wall, between the bricks, in lieu of cement. These traces of teeming life invite viewers to ask what exists on the other side of this otherwise impassable piece.