In the context of computing and engineering, a “black box” is a system with manifest inputs or outputs that does not reveal its internal workings. It is opaque. Such are the structures (all works 2022) in Kitty Kraus’s first solo exhibition at Galerie Neu in a decade: Dark rectangles, mounted on small tables or gypsum slabs, project tight grids of light, which then expand into seemingly infinite space. On the one hand, these contraptions embody mathematical and geometric precision, while on the other, they look “magical,” their internal mechanisms of LEDs and mirrors deliberately concealed. Kraus’s sculptural environment establishes a relationship between inside and outside, the knowable and the unknowable. It speaks to technological obfuscation, to accepting (or ignoring) the mystification of what happens inside the black box in lieu of being dazzled by its outward effects—think of the monoliths in Arthur C. Clarke’s “Space Odyssey” series (1968–1997), machines capable of triggering great shifts in evolution, sparking terror and reassurance simultaneously.
While Kraus’s previous bodies of work have centered illusory effects, this exhibition offset the material with the immaterial to conjure a sense of the virtual world, replete with the emergent possibilities and temporalities of computer-simulated environments. In the early fifteenth century, linear perspective helped artists achieve a sense of mimetic reality, yet this aesthetic shortcut disregards how our eyes constantly collect three-dimensional details to spatiotemporally situate the body. Kraus proposes a perspectival positioning that acknowledges both the revelations of the Renaissance and tomorrow’s metaverse. With mechanisms hidden from our sensory perception, the artist bypasses the obvious formal Minimalist references (Robert Morris’s mirrored cubes, Frank Stella’s black-and-white striped paintings) to engage with the expanded contemporary landscape: that of Big Tech, AI, and perhaps even the economic order of surveillance capitalism, technology both freeing and binding our bodies. À la Clarke, any calm or reverence we feel here has potentially insidious undertones in line with the promise and danger of technological advancement—a duality corroborated by the exhibition’s invitation, which depicts a dystopian industrial landscape surrounded by a glowing pink sea.