It seems that one hidden goal of this triennial has been to shift the history of abstraction to include more non-white artists, in particular Black ones, among them Robert Reed, Julie Mehretu, Chakaia Booker, and Charmaine Spencer. One of the youngest artists to fit within that lineage is Allana Clarke, who was born in Trinidad and Tobago and is now based in Detroit. She’s exhibiting a powerhouse work: At a Depth Beyond Anyone (2022), a thick sheet of black plasticky material that tumbles off the wall and onto the floor. It’s made out of hair bonding glue, which is used by Black woman to attach extensions, and its folded surface is mottled like scarred skin. Comparisons to prior giants of abstract art could be made—this piece bears similarities to Lynda Benglis’s latex pours and El Anatsui’s bottle-cap sheets—but Clarke’s process-based sculpture provides its own unique thrills.
In a glassy, light-filled gallery of the Cleveland Museum of Art, several giant archways rise diagonally from the floor; some are encrusted with what appears to be coral. Although these are fairly convincing as archaeological objects, everything in this gallery is, in fact, a new work by Firelei Báez, a New York–based artist of Haitian and Dominican descent. She has intended thevast ocean of all possibilities (19°36’16.9″N 72°13’07.0″W, 41°30’32.3″N 81°36’41.7″W), the sculpture being presented here, as a reference to the Sans-Souci Palace, the royal residence of the Haitian king Henry I, which was partially destroyed during an earthquake in 1842 and never rebuilt. The fish-out-of-water quality of this work is something Báez has embraced—she’s even made it seem as though the archways have jutted out of the wall, ripping off the paint in the process.