Image: Roberely Bell, Dressing, mixed media /  ©Roberley Bell    ©Black & White Gallery/Project Space

Image: Roberely Bell, Dressing, mixed media / ©Roberley Bell  ©Black & White Gallery/Project Space


Roberley Bell had been working exclusively on site-specific outdoor installations when she created her first project for Black & White's space. Her work followed the model of a 19th-century formal garden designed as a series of outdoor rooms, or, in the artist's words, "A landscape without a horizon and a house without a roof." Bell takes that fantasy of perfectly domesticated nature to an extreme conclusion in her installations, which mimic formal gardens with brightly-colored plastic flowers, artificial turf, and other ersatz natural forms. For Dressing, she arranged gown- shaped urns around the outdoor space, two of which were tipped over, spilling pink flowers onto patches of sod. At the time, her work had always included seating elements that created specific sight lines, which took in both the components of the piece and the natural landscape surrounding it. In the concrete well of Black & White's outdoor space, creating seating positions that related her faux garden to real nature proved to be a challenge, but her solution ended up introducing a formal element that would appear in later work. "When I was doing the piece at Black & White, I needed to make the sight line vertical, so I used mirrors in the small urns and within the spills to bring the sky into the space," said Bell. "It was a subtle but really important aspect of the work for me that I went on to use again in my second piece at the gallery."