Lorna Simpson in her studio with “Day for Night” (2018) panels before they are painted.
AN ARCHIVAL IMAGE of a woman standing precariously on the window ledge of a brick building inspired “Day for Night” (2018), a four-panel painting by Lorna Simpson. The new work sold for $375,000 including fees at Sotheby’s New York on May 17. The price is an artist record and the first time Simpson’s work has exceeded six figures at auction, according to Sotheby’s results and previous auction records.
The record-setting painting was featured in Creating Space, a special auction of 42 works benefitting the Studio Museum in Harlem. Artists closely associated the with the museum donated their works to the sale with the proceeds going to support the institution’s forthcoming David Adjaye-designed building. The lots were offered May 16-17 during Sotheby’s contemporary art sales in New York and yielded 24 artist records, including Simpson’s.
A conceptual photographer who explores a range of mediums, Brooklyn-based Simpson has transformed her practice in recent years and is currently pursuing painting. “Day for Night” is representative her style and approach which invokes vintage photographs, often of women. To make the layered paintings often executed on multiple panels, she experiments with the manner in which the silkscreened images are presented and their relationship with painted elements.
The image of the woman seen from behind on the window ledge was sourced from the Associated Press. Out of context, it is left to the viewer to determine what is going on. Whether she is demonstrating bravery, acting on fear, or expressing hopelessness, the situation is precarious. Simpson has explained that the dramatic images and themes found in her large-scale painting sprout from the modest-sized collages she makes.
The image of the woman seen from behind on the window ledge was sourced from the Associated Press. Out of context, it is left to the viewer to determine what is going on. Whether she is demonstrating bravery, acting on fear, or expressing hopelessness, the situation is precarious.
Lot 320: LORNA SIMPSON, “Day for Night,” 2008 (ink and acrylic on gessoed wood in 4 parts, 67 x 200 inches). | Estimate $250,000-$350,000
“I kind of find out a lot about what I am thinking as I make these collages. There are women on fire. There are women sitting on ice. There are women looking completely calm and collected or dancing while on fire or just bursting into flames,” Simpson said at the opening of her recent Hauser & Wirth exhibition in London, during a conversation with the Studio Museum’s Thelma Golden.
“After a while of making collages… I would pursue those themes that I was coming up with, subconsciously, which is interesting. It provides this window into my own subconscious, for myself, and then those elements help to fuel the paintings and the other works that come out of that.”
“Day for Night” echoes “Montage,” a complementary painting presented at her London show. It juxtaposes the fragmented images of the woman on the window sill with a fleeting image of a woman face down on a bed. When a reporter for the Financial Times visited her studio, Simpson stood before “Montage,” which she had just completed, and offered up an interpretation: “It’s about this psychological landscape of dreaming and waking, or waking and dreaming. There’s lots of anxiety — I don’t know if that’s leaving a gallery and going through a divorce!” (Simpson left Salon 94 to join Hauser & Wirth in April 2017 and recently divorced after 11 years of marriage.)
Simpson’s previous artist record was set in March when “Cloud,” a 2005 serigraph printed on felt in nine parts sold for $70,000 ($87,500 including fees) at Sotheby’s New York.
“Day for Night,” an ink and acrylic painting on gessoed wood that spans more than 16 feet across four panels, was priced to set a record and sold within the pre-sale estimate of $250,000-$350,000. CT
A new volume, “Lorna Simpson Collages,” is forthcoming this month. “Lorna Simpson” is a comprehensive catalogue documenting her body of work over the past three decades. Accompanying an exhibition of the same name, “Lorna Simpson: Works on Paper,” explores her collages and drawings. An earlier monograph simply titled “Lorna Simpson” accompanied a touring exhibition and includes contributions from Okwui Enwezor, Helaine Posner, Hilton Als, and Thelma Golden.
Screen printed panels that will compose “Day for Night.” | From Lorna Simpson: In the Studio, Video by Hauser & Wirth
At left, In progress “Day for Night” panels lean against the wall in Lorna Simpson’s studio. | From Lorna Simpson: In the Studio, Video by Hauser & Wirth
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