Krista Clark, Still Life no.3 , 2022, Concrete, wood, worklight, extension cord, 50 x 124inches [photo: Mike Jensen; courtesy of the artist and Sandler Hudson Gallery, Atlanta]

Krista Clark — After Barkley

“Basketball saves.”—Krista Clark

In After Barkley, Krista Clark’s recent solo exhibition at Sandler Hudson Gallery, she connected art, architecture, and basketball through her signature style of abstract minimalism, which is full of layered meaning. The works in the exhibition share a distinct color palette of pastels—minty green, bright orange, and cream. Textured materials such as concrete, plastic, and wood also create cohesion. Many of the shapes used in the works are clearly reminiscent of a basketball court—the shape of the hoop, the half court, the three-point line, the circle at the top of the key, and the backboard. 

This body of work is also inspired, in part, by the late Barkley Hendricks, an avid basketball fan and prolific painter who made a series that brought together basketball and spirituality. Clark’s studio in the Westview neighborhood of Atlanta was once a church, and in these works, the landscape of a basketball court is abstracted and transformed by lines that could also detail religious iconography. Many of the works’ titles pay homage to the game while blending in spiritual themes. Verse numbers, for example, are a way to reference a specific passage in spiritual text, as in the series Play 2, Verse 1–5, (all 2022). Three of the works in the show incorporate such building materials as concrete, and they connect to Clark’s broader artistic practice. She mixes new and repurposed materials to construct familiar forms in new spatial arrangements. 

A framed rectangular sheet of paper with various washes and arches cut into it, paper peeling away, and the outline of a star up top.

Krista Clark, Play 2, Verse 2, 2022, Pastel, graphite, carbon paper,plastic fencing 37 x24 inches [photo: Mike Jensen; courtesy of the artist and Sandler Hudson Gallery,Atlanta]

Another rectangular piece of paper that is hung vetically with various parts stripped and scorred, creating physical indentations and effects of paper peeled back alongside inverted arches of teal color and strips of orange.

Krista Clark, Play 2, Verse 4, 2022, Pastel, graphite, carbon paper,plastic fencing 29 x 25 inches [photo: Mike
Jensen; courtesy of the artist and Sandler Hudson Gallery, Atlanta]

A clear reference to Hendricks’ work appears in one of the exhibition’s most dominant works, Still Life no. 3 (2022), which includes an orange construction work light, hung above three cathedral-style windows made of wood and filled in with cast concrete. Inspired by Hendricks’ triptych-style painting Father, Son, and (1969), Clark’s work echoes that works’ trinity of arches and offers an answer to its missing—but strongly implied—light source. The utilitarian light in Still Life no. 3, suspended by a netless basketball hoop that’s tilted up to become a halo, illuminates the space above the work. 

Clark’s visual language of architectural drawings and her color palette draw you in with references often seen in the built environment. The orange comes in part from the plastic fencing often found stretched around building sites, fragments of which have been cut and embedded in the works as linear elements. The orange also comes from the rim of a five-gallon bucket peeking out in relief, as if fully submerged, from a framed rectangle of cast concrete in Untitled (2022), and from the basketball hoop’s coating. Clark shares that her technique includes the “use of formal gestures: overlapping, layering, stacking and cutting to reflect the complicated and often compromised relationship we have with our built environment.” 

Even Clark’s techniques appear to be sly allusions that further enmesh her suite of references. In many of her works on paper, such as Play 1, Verse 1, the artist has created a subtle layering of paper through cutting and ripping—terms also used to label maneuvers in basketball. Play 2, Verse 4 blurs geometries of the backboard and basket with those of the choir and apse of a cathedral—ornate cutouts evoke a rose window. 

In Praying for Bank (You made, You made my day) (2022), the bright colors of an album label draw the viewer close to read the song titles on the iconic Clark Sisters’ gospel record You Brought the Sunshine, which is suspended within nesting wooden and concrete rectangles. I couldn’t help but think about the uplifting message in the lyrics: “You made my day. You came my way. You heard me every time I prayed. You gave me peace. You gave me grace. You put a smile upon my face. 

A rectangular gray concrete slab hung vertically with an orange circle of a bucket centered and embedded at the bottom.

Krista Clark, Untitled, 2022, Concrete, wood, plastic bucket 39 x 24 inches [photo: Mike Jensen; courtesy of the artist and Sandler Hudson Gallery, Atlanta]

A rectangular panel of wood housing a gray slab of concrete hung horizontally with a smaller wooden panel and a vinyl record embedded in the middle of the slab.

Krista Clark,Praying for Bank (You made, You made my day), 2022, Concrete, wood,and record 36.25 x 48x 2 inches [photo: Mike Jensen; courtesy of the artist and Sandler Hudson Gallery, Atlanta]

The final piece of Clark’s puzzle is The Last Dance—a 10-episode documentary series about Michael Jordan’s NBA career during his years with the Chicago Bulls—in which Clark found calm and stability during the Covid lockdowns of 2020. The work tells a story of mental toughness, in addition to physical strength, as a means to transcend. Whether it’s the soothing embrace of worship, the energizing effect of inspiring figures, or the way an architectural plan can so accurately predict the future—there’s solace to be found in such constructs. It can be found, too, in Clark’s work—in its ability to bring these elements together and elegantly conjure a chapel. 

Jennifer M. Williams has more than 12 years of experience producing multidisciplinary public art programs and exhibitions. She is the Program + Outreach Coordinator at Art Papers. She supports and serves on a variety of committees and boards, including Junebug Productions and “a BLACK creative’s guide.