Biography

Through a range of photographic media Karolina Karlic creates work that widely addresses the intersection of photography, film, global politics, and ecology with a focus on labor, industry, diaspora, environmental topics, and the effects of social upheaval.

She has been the recipient of numerous fellowships and awards, including the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, the Cultural Exchange International Fellowship, the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs Fellowship, and has participated in the Sacatar Foundation and Light Work’s Artist-in-Residence Programs. Her work has been exhibited in numerous solo exhibitions and group shows, ranging from local Bay Area venues to international exhibitions. Her first monograph, Primer, was published (2014) by Conveyor Arts. Her most recent publication, Contact Sheet #196, was published (2018) by Light Work.

Her works include projects: Close to Home (2005) focuses on Ukraine’s post-Soviet conditions; The Dee (2006) depicts Detroit’s de-industrialization; What Color is the Sacred (2009) examines Western views of French Polynesia and the “re-birth” of Tahitian culture. Aberdeen Sierra Leone (2011) portrays a group of progressive post-war adolescent males in West Africa. Rockin’ the Bakken (2012) pictures a modern day oil boomtown of North Dakota, USA. Primer (2014) a monograph in which personal stories of those who exist behind the US auto industry are woven along with charting the evolution (or de-evolution) of that industry during the Great Recession.

Her work, Rubberlands, is an ongoing photographic survey maps the ways rubber manufacturing is socially, ecologically and systemically formed. Following the trajectory of Karolina Karlic's earlier work which explored the automobile industry in Michigan, Rubberlands proceeds from Midwest cities like Detroit and Akron, Ohio—once the rubber capital of the world—which serve as entry points to networks of globalization. Connecting the company archives of Henry Ford, Goodyear, Goodrich, General Tire and Firestone, she traces the evolution of an industry that relies heavily on outsourcing of the Hevea brasiliensis (Amazonian rubber tree). Her photographic fieldwork in Brazil has taken her to manufacturing plants in Salvador and Itaparica, Michelin rubber plantations in the Atlantic forest, a fisherman’s village on the coastal rivers of Itubera in Bahia and the vestiges of Henry Ford's planned community in the Amazon.

Karlic reveals threatened landscapes, sites of reforestation and working factories against the backdrop of their surrounding communities; scenes where living things are transformed into assets and removed from their life worlds to supply the demands of capital. By weaving together historical archives and contemporary renderings of environs shaped by production, Karlic moves beyond capturing a static place and time—and instead, configures a dynamic space for contemplating the inextricable social and personal bonds surrounding labor and natural resources. Here, she invites the viewer into a new imaginary where historical consciousness is critical to reflecting on our relationship to consumption.

Karolina Karlic was born in Wrocław, Poland and immigrated to Detroit, Michigan in 1987. Karlic holds a BFA from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and an MFA from the California Institute of the Arts. She is an Assistant Professor in the Art Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she currently resides.