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Karin Broker
McClain Gallery, Houston, Texas
Recommendation by Donna Tennant

Karin Broker, "fighting pretty," 2013, conte on formica with leather bound book, 84 x 60 x 3". Image courtesy of McClain Gallery and the artist. © Paul Hester.

Continuing through May 31, 2014

It takes a bit of investigation to figure out what is going on in Karin Broker’s large and lush drawings. From a distance, they look like oversize flower studies reminiscent of 17th-century Dutch still-life painting. Look more closely, however, and surrounding the expertly executed drawings are thousands of small handwritten notations. Most are actual women’s names and dates, but others are those of “super” girls and women who appeared in comic books. Other heroines such as Cleopatra, Rosa Parks, and Toni Morrison are also included. Broker compiled the information after extensive research, and it appears not only on the drawings but hand-etched into a steel table and six chairs, two steel benches, and printed in a small limited-edition book. Viewers are encouraged to sit at the table and add their own stories about women to the notes section in the back of the books.

Besides the nine conté drawings on white Formica panels and the furniture pieces, there are five small collages and an anomaly – a nearly six-foot-tall construction of steel tethered by a chain to a small iron, the kind one uses to press clothing. Each of the five collages start with a monoprint of a single flower; upon this Broker collages various materials such as vintage dress patterns, personal letters, Victorian book pages, and recycled prints. All the pieces in the show combine Broker’s love of drawing and printmaking with her growing interest in women’s history. The purposefully lowercased title, “damn girls,” seems to refer to some people’s attitude toward some women – that they are always stirring up trouble or, at the very least, making things more complicated than they need to be.

Although best known as a draftsman, Broker never limits herself to a single medium. She does whatever strikes her fancy, which could be printmaking, collage, wiring costume jewelry together to form constructions, or welding forged steel into two-dimensional drawings. “I just like to make things,” she states on her website, and those things are invariably lovely, labor-intensive, and thought-provoking.

McClain Gallery

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