NEW YORK.- Lorna Simpson, a survey of the past 20 years of the career of the internationally recognized photographic and film/video artist, will be presented by the Whitney Museum of American Art from March 1 to May 6, 2007. Organized by the American Federation of Arts and curated by AFA Adjunct Curator Helaine Posner, the exhibition presents a sweeping view of the multi-faceted work of one of the leading artists working in the United States today. Shamim Momin, associate curator at the Whitney, will oversee the installation for the Museum.
Featuring both black-and-white and color works, Lorna Simpson includes approximately 17 of the artists acclaimed image-and-text pieces (198592) and seven major photographs on felt (19942005). Also on view are six film installations dating from 1997 to 2004, including Call Waiting; Easy to Remember; Interior/Exterior; Full/Empty, a seven-part projection and related series of photographs; 31, a video calendar in which the artist closely observes a month in the public and private life of an unknown woman; and Corridor (2003), a work that juxtaposes the domestic meanderings of two womenone set in the 17th-century Coffin House (a noted historic structure in Newbury, Massachusetts), and the other in the 1938 house built by Bauhaus architect/designer Walter Gropius for his family in Lincoln, Massachusetts. As these enigmatic figures attend to their homes and the quotidian activities of their respective times, the viewer is irresistibly led to compare theman action that is, in fact, central to the viewing of all of Lorna Simpsons work. The exhibition concludes with Simpsons recent photographs (200103), which consist of ghostly, silhouetted profiles of black women and men accompanied by the titles of paintings, songs, and films that date from the 1790s to the 1970s.
Lorna Simpson first became well-known in the mid-1980s for her large-scale photograph-and-text works that confront and challenge narrow, conventional views of gender, identity, culture, history, and memory. With the African American woman as a visual point of departure, Simpson uses the figure to examine the ways in which gender and culture shape the interactions, relationships, and experiences of our lives in contemporary multi-racial America. In the mid-1990s, she began creating large multi-panel photographs printed on felt that depict the sites of publicyet unseensexual encounters. More recently, she has turned to moving imagesin film and video works such as Call Waiting, Simpson presents couples engaged in intimate and enigmatic yet elliptical conversations that elude easy interpretation but seem to address the mysteries of both identity and desire.
When Lorna Simpson emerged from the graduate program at the University of California, San Diego, in 1985, she was already considered a pioneer of conceptual photography. Feeling a strong need to reexamine and re-define photographic practice for contemporary relevance, Simpson was producing work that engaged the conceptual vocabulary of the time by creating exquisitely crafted documents that are as clean and spare as the closed, cyclic systems of meaning they produce. Her initial body of work alone helped to incite a significant shift in the view of the photographic arts transience and malleability.
In an exhibition catalogue essay, Okwui Enwezor, Dean of Academic Affairs at the San Francisco Art Institute, observes that, Much of Simpsons work imbricates [creates overlaps of] language, speech, and text. Language is employed like a lever, to pry open the lid of the unconscious. Here text plays a subsidiary role. However, when it approximates speech, it functions like a memory trigger in relation to a visual cue. The text panels also confront the viewer with a fundamental contradiction between the sense of vision and voice as separate forms of knowing: between seeing and speaking. If we are to reconcile this contradiction, then much of Simpsons work is not simply annexed to text/image relationship, it is fundamentally audiovisual.
About the Artist
Lorna Simpson was born in 1960 in Brooklyn, New York, and received her BFA in Photography from the School of Visual Arts, New York, and her MFA from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has been exhibited at The Museum of Modern Art, New York (1990), the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (1992), the Miami Art Museum (1997), the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (1999), and the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin (2003). She has participated in such important international exhibitions as the Hugo Boss Prize (1998) at the Guggenheim Museum, New York, and Documenta XI (2002) in Kassel, Germany. Simpson has been the subject of numerous articles, catalogue essays, and a monograph published by Phaidon Press.