Lorna Simpson. | Photo by James Wang, Courtesy Hauser & Wirth
HAUSER & WIRTH GALLERY announced its worldwide representation of Lorna Simpson today. A conceptual artist and photographer, Simpson’s work challenges conventional views of gender, culture, identity, history, and memory.
In describing her distinguished practice, the gallery said she has “emerged as a central voice in a generation of American artists questioning constructed societal historical narratives and the performative crafting of identity. Simpson deftly examines the slippery nature of representation and meaning to reveal the ways in which larger forces of gender and culture impact the everyday in an enigmatic and profound art.”
Marc Payot, partner and vice president of Hauser & Wirth said he was “honored and delighted” to welcome Simpson into the gallery’s fold and noted connections between her work and that of several other artists it represents.
“Her rigor, her passion, and her incredible sensitivity produce not only extraordinary art but also an invitation to engage in a dialogue about identity that we are eager to share. To us, her superbly intellectual approach to a variety of media suggests a remarkable affinity with fellow gallery artists Roni Horn and Zoe Leonard, as well as Rashid Johnson, Mark Bradford, and others tackling complex issues of identity. We look forward to working closely with Lorna and sharing her vision and voice with a wide and diverse international audience,” Payot said.
“[Lorna Simpson’s] rigor, her passion, and her incredible sensitivity produce not only extraordinary art but also an invitation to engage in a dialogue about identity that we are eager to share.”
— Marc Payot, Hauser & Wirth
TRAINED AS A PAINTER, Brooklyn-based Simpson has primarily expressed herself through photography and video over the course of her 30-year practice. More recently, she has been exploring drawing and painting again. Vintage images of black representation from Ebony and Jet magazines were the source of inspiration for several photographic collage series. Some of those images were printed on felt.
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An artist retreat in San Francisco sponsored by collector Pamela Joyner was transformational. For the first time she was creating two-dimensional works on a large scale. One of the first paintings she made for the 2015 Venice Biennale emerged from that experience and charted a new direction in her practice.
LORNA SIMPSON, “Soundlessness,” 2016 (ink and screenprint on claybord, 12 panels). | Courtesy the Artist and Hauser & Wirth, Photo by James Wang
I ASKED SIMPSON about the fresh perspective following a lecture she gave last September at the National Gallery of Art in Washington. She said she has always embraced change in her practice.
“I think everyone in terms of process approaches work differently. I have a tendency to want to explore other things and the funny thing is although I work in all these different mediums, some of the same issues or themes come up again, which I didn’t realize. The new paintings are a direct link to the felt works in a way visually, in the way that they are structured,” Simpson said.
“I always have been an artist that goes off in another direction. The importance of a signature work, I just don’t relate to my work that way because I feel through either the subject matter or the handling of a subject matter or a theme, that’s the thread that runs throughout the work. I enjoy the challenges of not knowing where I am going or how it’s going to get resolved and working in such a way that there isn’t a clear road map as to where I am going in the moment. I choose another path and I go, ‘Let’s see what comes of this.’”
“I enjoy the challenges of not knowing where I am going or how it’s going to get resolved and working in such a way that there isn’t a clear road map as to where I am going in the moment. I choose another path and I go, ‘Let’s see what comes of this.’” — Lorna Simpson
LORNA SIMPSON, “Enumerated,” 2016 (India ink, acrylic, and screenprint on Claybord). | Courtesy the Artist and Hauser & Wirth, Photo by James Wang
AFTER THE BIENNIAL, she followed up with large-scale, multi-panel paintings, layering silkscreened images with ink mark making and defining gestures with acrylic. Drawing on archival photographs from the Associated Press dating from the 1930s to 70s, she explored deconstructed identities. Other canvases considered the current political and social climate.
A painting titled “Enumeration” stood out, depicting a series of nails arranged in groups of five. Simpson told me the nails were symbolic and could be enumerating anything, “from the minutiae of one’s day-to-day life and deadlines, or the way that this past couple of years have been the counting of deaths by police violence or police brutality or gun violence.”
These paintings were presented last fall at Salon 94 in New York, the gallery that previously represented Simpson. “FOCUS: Lorna Simpson,” a subsequent exhibition on view at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth in Texas, was the first museum presentation of her new work.
From left, poet Elizabeth Alexander, artist Julie Mehretu, curator Thelma Golden, artist Shirin Neshat, and art historian Kellie Jones. | Photo by Lorna Simpson for Vogue via vogue.com
THIS YEAR, “Lorna Simpson: Hypothetical?” at Fisher Landau Center for Art in Long Island City, N.Y. (Feb. 9-Aug. 7, 2017) revisits another period of change. The exhibition is named for a sound installation that involves text, a photograph, and mouthpieces from wind instruments. “Hypothetical?” was first shown at the 1993 Whitney Biennial and marked a pivotal transition in her practice. The work is presented along with several of the Simpson’s photo-text pieces made in the years immediately prior to the sound installation.
Nowadays, Simpson rarely uses her camera to make portraits. She made an exception for an amazing portfolio of creative women for vogue.com last month. The magazine is celebrating its 125th anniversary. For “Artist-in-Residence,” Simpson captured 22 women—including artists Joan Jonas, Julie Mehretu, Marilyn Minter, Shirin Neshat and Teresita Fernandez; curators Thelma Golden and Rujeko Hockley; and scholars Elizabeth Alexander and Kellie Jones. She photographed all of them in her Brooklyn studio, which was designed by architect David Adjaye. Many of the women she has known for years and they are a source of support and inspiration.
“For many of the women in my life, art is central to their life and work,” Simpson told Vogue. She added: “They are creative visionaries whose passions and work have shaped the cultural landscape.”
What’s next? Simpson is delivering the Floyd Coleman Lecture this weekend (April 8) at Howard University’s annual James A. Porter Colloquium, an annual forum about African American art and visual culture.
In May, Hauser & Wirth is presenting its inaugural project with Simpson, an exhibition of new paintings and sculpture at the Frieze New York art fair. CT
To further explore Lorna Simpson’s work, “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 tour exhibition and includes contributions from Okwui Enwezor, Helaine Posner, Hilton Als, and Thelma Golden.
This painting is an ode to Simpson’s friend and fellow artist Gary Simmons. LORNA SIMPSON, “Detroit (Ode to G.),” 2016 (ink and screenprint on claybord, 12 panels). | Courtesy the Artist and Hauser & Wirth, Photo by James Wang
LORNA SIMPSON, “Polka Dot & Bullet Holes #1,” (India ink and screenprint on Claybord). | Courtesy the Artist and Hauser & Wirth, Photo by James Wang