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Naomi Beckwith Marta Gili Thomas J. Lax Elvan Zabunyan









Todd Brandow, Marta Gili, and Okwui Enwezor

Easy to Remember, Hard to Forget: Lorna Simpson’s Gestures and Reenactments


Joan Simon

To Complete the Analogy: Lorna Simpson, or the Question of History


Elvan Zabunyan

We Have Only the Future


Marta Gili

Momentum, Momentum: Re-performance, the First Time Around


Thomas J. Lax

Solo Match: Role Play, Time Play, and Spatial Play in Lorna Simpson’s Chess


Naomi Beckwith



Lorna Simpson in Conversation with Joan Simon



199 203 209 214



In her critically acclaimed body of work spanning more than thirty years, Lorna Simpson questions identity and memory, gender and history, fact and fiction, playing eye and ear in tandem if not in synchrony to prompt consideration of how meaning is constructed. That she has often described herself as an observer and a listener informs an understanding of both her approach and her subjects. In her earliest black-and-white documentary street photographs (1978–80; fig. 1), Simpson isolated gestures that bespoke an intimacy between those framed in her viewfinder, recording what was less a decisive moment than one of coming into relation. Some of these photographs seem to capture crossed glances, pauses in an ongoing conversation. Others are glimpses of occasions, transitional events identifiable by a white confirmation or wedding dress, which convey a sense of palpable silence in exchanges between people just out of earshot. When Simpson began to stage her own photographs in 1985 and to write accompanying texts, she came in closer. She allowed us to see a carefully framed black body, abstracted in gesture as well as in its white clothing, yet also permitted us to read seemingly overheard comments that redirected and recomplicated the view. While her images captured gestures, her narratives imbued these images frozen in a never-changing

present with memory, a past. The title of her first photo-text work, made in 1985, and of the exhibition of that year in which it was first exhibited was Gestures/ Reenactments (pp. 66–67), and one can argue that all Simpson’s work is built on the juxtaposition of gestures and reenactments, creating meaning in the resonant gap between the two. It is a gap that invites the viewer/ reader to enter, all the while requiring an active reckoning with some inalienable truths: seeing is not necessarily believing, and what we might see is altered not only by our individual experiences and assumptions but also, critically, by what we might hear. Gestures/Reenactments is almost paradigmatic of the questions Simpson would raise and the diverse ways in which she would answer them over the next three decades. If the artist was to tell stories, whose would they be, what would they say, and how could a multiplicity of voices convey memory’s ever-shifting terrain? Gestures/Reenactments offers six black-andwhite photographs of a figure wearing a white T-shirt and pants (an abstraction, in a sense, of the white dresses of Simpson’s earlier documentary photographs), framed so that parts of his body are cropped from view. Each of these six sequential photographs isolates one view of this figure as he does a 180-degree turn, beginning with the leftmost photograph, in which

Fig. 1 Untitled, 1979


he is seen from the back, and ending with a frontal view in the rightmost image. It is accompanied by seven text panels, which have no one-to-one correspondence to the six images. The overall ensemble of images presents a figure coming into view but never fully. Even in the last panel, in which he is centered in the field and his head is no longer cropped from the frame, the image stops short, ending below his eyes. Likewise, as one reads / hears in one’s head the texts, a picture begins to emerge, but it too is incomplete if multivocal. All but one of the seven texts tell different stories about different men, variously named Larry, Buck, Calvin, Mr. Johnson, and Sam. While each describes a gesture or stance—“how Larry was standing when he found out,” “Mr. Johnson walks out,” “he stood by a refrigerator,” and the final panel’s “sometimes Sam stands like his mother”—some also suggest misperception or outright deception in the recall, the reenactment of a story, of a particular moment in time, as in the phrasing “how his runnin buddy was standing / when they thought he had a gun” or “and on saturday when Calvin pretended / he was that famous football player.” Among the seven text panels the odd man out, so to speak, is the one centered and spanning the gap between the three photo panels to its left and the three to its right. While sharing the conversational and vernacular tone of the other texts, this one differs in voice, point of view, and brevity: “say girl— / ain’t you color film at least?” It speaks directly to someone outside the frame, and the most obvious candidate is the photographer facing her subject in the studio. It may be read / heard as bringing the persona of the artist into the field of conversations in this particular photo-text piece and as bringing a self-reflexive memory to the making of the work itself. At the same time it provokes questions of identity and expectations that extend beyond the work’s bounds. At the 1990 Venice Biennale, Lorna Simpson was the first black woman to be represented in the Aperto section, devoted to work by younger artists, which also



included the work of the AIDS-activist collective Gran Fury. In a tough, at times sardonically biting review of the exhibition for the Village Voice, Hilton Als wrote of “the code word” of “difference with a capital ‘D’”: “Not since the ’20s, when Révue Nègre and all that hit Paris, have Europeans been as interested as they are now in difference, which really means that they’ve rediscovered the Negro, the Woman, and the Sexual Subversive.” Yet he also reports on a number of examples of “radical cheek” evidenced throughout his stay, several directed at the writer himself, such as when he is addressed as a deliveryman at the Biennale offices in “a what-are-yourcredentials? condition of invisibility, as in Ralph Ellison.”¹ The article includes Als’s astute discussion of Simpson’s signature photo-text works featuring a black woman in a white shift seen from the back, which she initiated in 1986 with Waterbearer (p. 69). He notes that the artist had decided not to present this woman “as an icon.” Rather, as he says, “What Lorna does is confound our standard notion of looking by giving us a subject whose absent face is distinctly there, as in the Negro presence in the history of art, rarely acknowledged, rarely felt. These pieces are about colored anxiety filling the room of one’s consciousness.” Further on, Simpson is quoted in conversation with Als speaking of her own ambitions for these works: “I didn’t want anyone to have the chance to look at anything in those images except maybe their own convictions. I wanted people to see that woman as she sees herself, which is to say, as herself, declarative.”² Waterbearer is almost an abstraction of an abstraction of the classical image of a woman balancing the scales of justice. Here the balance is between the water the woman pours from an elegant metallic pitcher in one hand and from an ordinary plastic jug in the other. The work is at once a stark symbol of differences in class and economic means and an art historical reference to the many images over millennia of women carrying water in urns from a stream or well or pouring it from tableware (as in the well-appointed rooms of seventeenth-century Dutch paintings). One might also introduce another image here, of the Senegambian

ritual that Phillis Wheatley, the colonial slave who became a poet and, in 1773, the first black woman to publish a book in the United States, recalled in her only recorded memory of her birthplace, of “her mother pour[ing] out water before the sun at his rising.”³ The words set in large type below Simpson’s photograph tell this story: She saw him disappear by the river. They asked her to tell what happened, only to discount her memory.

That Simpson’s work turns on her strengths as a writer as much as her strengths as a photographer is testament to her ear for spoken language, her “love of language,” and her experience of reading poetry since childhood.⁴ At the same time the conversational form of her writings, beginning with Gestures/ Reenactments, also locates Simpson’s writing within an African American literary tradition oriented toward oral transmission.⁵ The complex problematic of Waterbearer speaks within and beyond the work itself, for the agency and memory of Simpson’s “she” and the dismissal of both by “they” are played out daily in courts of justice and public opinion.⁶ As Simpson has said of Waterbearer: “[It is] the first piece I made that references memory and the difficulties, the different levels in which we engage memory.” These different levels depend on how we read Simpson’s images together with her juxtaposed texts, for that space between image and text is further complicated by our different engagements and, relatedly, our acknowledgment of both the limits and the possibilities of gathering a work’s many referents. To say that identity, history, and memory recomplicated are Simpson’s purview is to set her within a generation of artists who came of age on the cusp of the 1980s. The late 1970s and early 1980s were a time when the pluralism of the 1970s, based on formal shifts and activist voices of the late 1960s—its conceptualism, feminism, story art, return of the figure via performance,

photographs, drawing as well as painting, and, most critically, politics of the body, gender, race, of identity itself—were foregrounded and absorbed by artists in different ways. In their recombinations of mediums, younger artists began to give voice and presence to that which was previously invisible in the larger culture and unseen in mainstream art arenas. Such works interrogated the “truths” of language and image, the construction of identity in daily life and in the media, and they also built on histories newly shown and rewritten at venues in New York like the feminist co-op A.I.R. Gallery and the Studio Museum in Harlem, whose internship and residency programs fostered a new generation of curators and artists. In the late 1970s, after graduating from New York’s High School of Art and Design, Simpson began studying photography at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) while working as an intern in the education department at the Studio Museum. It was there that she met the young curator Kellie Jones and the artists Charles Abramson, Candace Hill-Montgomery, and David Hammons among others. She also explored the art scene downtown in clubs and galleries. Simpson met the writer and curator Lucy Lippard, who introduced her to the meetings of the feminist Heresies Collective, where Simpson first met the artist Ana Mendieta. Lippard selected Simpson’s work for an early exhibition.⁷ Simpson also spent time at the midtown Kamoinge photography workshop, where she came to know black photographers of different generations and first met her contemporary Carrie Mae Weems. It was Weems who suggested to Simpson that she consider attending the MFA program at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), which Simpson did, receiving her degree in 1985. The conceptual and performance-imbued atmosphere of UCSD was far different from the approach at SVA, where Duane Michals was the exception (conceptually joining a written personal narrative with image) in a faculty that emphasized the professional applications of photography (photojournalism, fashion, “street” or documentary photography) and where the history of photography classes



focused on, among others, Henri Cartier-Bresson, William Klein, and Gordon Parks (the only black photographer in the canon). If the importance of “story” had already begun to inform contemporary art making, Simpson herself was largely unaware of it during her undergraduate studies at SVA. At the time she was also unaware of conceptual artists (such as John Baldessari and Adrian Piper), “story” or “narrative” artists (among them Laurie Anderson and Bill Beckley in the 1970s), or of the stories within the quilts of Faith Ringgold (which she came to know during her last year of graduate school, when Ringgold began teaching at UCSD, though Simpson did not take any of her classes). In graduate school Simpson studied with, among others, the poet and critic David Antin, known for his “talk poems”; the video and performance artist Eleanor Antin; and the filmmakers Babette Mangolte and Jean-Pierre Gorin. Simpson was also aware of the work of Allan Kaprow, the film historian and filmmaker Standish Lawder, and the painter and film critic Manny Farber. Simpson’s goal in graduate school was to move beyond the documentary “street photography” form that her undergraduate work had taken, but for the first years of the three-year program, she did not know what direction her work would take. She soon recognized that despite the focus on performance and movingpicture media at UCSD and despite her interest in film and deconstructing its language (which can be traced back to a course she took with Joan Braderman at SVA), she nevertheless had no ambition to be a performer or to make films or videos at the time. Weems, who was already a student at UCSD when Simpson arrived, would also bring to her photographic and video work, as she has described it, “the role of narrative, the social levels of humor, the deconstruction of documentary, the construction of history, the use of text, storytelling, performance, and the role of memory.”⁸ Unlike Simpson, however, she engaged autobiography. While Simpson’s work was to address some of the same issues that Weems’s did (as would that of other young black artists of her generation,



among them Lyle Ashton Harris, Glenn Ligon, Whitfield Lovell, Kara Walker, and Fred Wilson), the stories Simpson showed and told were not autobiographical. Furthermore, she herself did not appear in her work, although the female figure in her photo-text pieces of the 1980s was often misidentified as Simpson. Gestures/Reenactments, Simpson’s graduate thesis project, would herald her exploration of the performative and of language in the ensuing years. Her sequential photographs were prototypically cinematic in their use of repetitive frames, time-lapse, point of view, casting, dialogue, staging, and an overall process wherein an artist takes on the interrelated roles of writer, producer, and director. As Simpson began to develop these photo-text works, she would envision the images and write the texts at the same time, a method that she would continue to follow when she returned to New York in 1986, first with Waterbearer. This work was followed by many others in which Alva Rogers performed the role of the woman in a white shift, with her back to the camera, with her head cropped from the frame, or with her head visible but her eyes masked. Simpson deployed these images in various ways, often using the “same” figure in multiple panels arranged serially or, later, in a gridded configuration to tell different stories within a single work. The title of Twenty Questions (A Sampler) (1986; pp. 70–71) refers to the parlor game in which one player thinks of a person, place, or thing, which the other participants try to identify by asking a series of questions. A maximum of twenty may be asked. Simpson’s “sampler” gives only five questions on its plaques (all lacking a final question mark), accompanying four images of the same woman from the back: “Is she pretty as a picture / Or clear as crystal / Or pure as a lily / Or black as coal / Or sharp as a razor.” These phrases would be of little help in determining the identity of a particular person, for each is as abstracted as the image of the woman seen from the back. The work’s lack of specificity, as well as its incompleteness, sets the ground for speculation. As Simpson has commented, “In some ways it is interesting to try to build very

Fig. 2 Screen 1, 1986 (front and back)

complex characters that live outside of a stereotype of time, place, identity, sexuality, and race and are complicated by those things, and this implicates everyone.”⁹ Five Day Forecast (1988; pp. 72–73) similarly plays linguistically in the realm of quotidian conjecture. The plaques above the images are as straightforward as a calendar, naming the five workdays, while the words on the plaques below seem to refer to the daily errors or untruths that may mark a workday: “Misdescription / Misinformation / Misidentity / Misdiagnose / Misfunction / Mistranscribe / Misremember / Misgauge / Misconstrue / Mistranslate.” In 1986 Simpson also investigated another sort of duality to pull the viewer quite viscerally into the realm of speculation. In a series of freestanding screens, she confronted the problem of disjunctive reading of image and text by translating her two-dimensional wall-hung photo-text pieces to three dimensions. These two-sided screens literally play between front and back, revealed and concealed (a notion implied in the still photographs of figures facing away from the camera). Simpson’s stories of “Sandy” or “Marie”—using the same figure in

a white shift (again played by Rogers), though variously cropped or accompanied by different props—also play with time, the delays and pauses in conversation. In some of these works Simpson deconstructed a sentence by placing part of a text (using red vinyl letters affixed to the panels) on the front of a screen and reserving another part for the back, black surface, requiring the viewer to move around the object to collect a complete thought. The sequential panels are cinematic in implication not only because the story advances frame by frame but also because of the suspense implied in some between the setup on the front and the concluding phrase on the back or, in the case of a pair of related screens, by the movement from one to the other. In Screen 1 (fig. 2), “Marie,” wearing the white shift with socks and heavy brogues, is seen from her lap to her feet in three different shots that variously show her hands or a toy boat in her lap. The words on the three front panels say, “Marie said she / was from Montreal / although,” while the sole phrase in the middle of the black back panels reads, “she was from Haiti.” Screen 2,




Now Woman power is Black power is Human power is always feeling my heart beats as my eyes open as my hands move as my mouth speaks I am Are you Ready. —Audre Lorde (1973)

How one is able to interpret a work of literature or visual art depends on how one sets about reading it, a process that may be keyed to theoretical, historical, aesthetic, or political issues. When it comes to considering the oeuvre of Lorna Simpson, which has already generated

a vast corpus of particularly rich and rewarding propositions, we may wonder if there is a different way to approach her photographic production—a body of work that has occupied a singular position and broken new ground since the mid-1980s. For the first time in the history of American art, a woman artist was engaged in a conceptual practice that addressed both African American cultural history and the memory of slavery, both the heritage of artistic or cinematic avant-gardes and conceptual photography, questions of race and gender as well as political consciousness and critical thought. Simpson’s work would enter the mainstream American and international art milieu by advancing notions of marginality, invisibility, and stereotype. It was a fine balance, especially when considering the latter, since artists of her generation who emphasized their belonging to black (or nonwhite) culture were quickly labeled with the cliché of Otherness. Huey Copeland, in his essay “‘Bye, Bye Black Girl’: Lorna Simpson’s Figurative Retreat,” trenchantly analyzes the reception of Simpson’s work, notably citing with critical irony the front page of New York Newsday on September 19, 1990: a full-page photograph of the artist, standing in front of a detail of her 1989 photo-text work Untitled (Prefer, Refuse, Decide), accompanied by a huge headline proclaiming

“Now” © by Audre Lorde 1973, 1992. Reprinted by permission of the Charlotte Sheedy Literary Agency. Fig. 15 Figure, 1991 (detail) 31

“The Outsider Is In.” According to Copeland, Simpson’s fortuitous ascension was taken to augur the beginning of the end of white patriarchal exclusion, the absolute other now given her “place in the sun”: representation in the age of representativeness. Of course, such representation is never without its price and as the mascot for a brand of specious multiculturalism, Simpson was expected to speak tirelessly of and for her oppressed sisters, and in the idiom that had already become her signature.¹

This altogether singular artistic position goes hand in hand with Simpson’s sharp lucidity, allowing her to think about the context at the heart of her production; it is the latter that spares her work from being co-opted. Despite the “object” nature of her photographic installations and the ease of their assimilation by an art market hungry for artists responsive to its expectations, she confounds these expectations by voluntarily obscuring her sources. Like a rebus combining visual elements and words, a Simpson work offers with its photographs and texts—fragments of deconstructed narratives, sentences on the run—moments when the spectator, focusing on the text and the image, suddenly gains the freedom to make the references resonate and thereby understands that it is this process, in turn, that is the producer of meanings. In the second chapter of Toni Morrison’s novel Home (2012), we read: “Frank fell asleep between a wool blanket and plastic slipcovers and dreamed a dream dappled with body parts. He woke in militant sunlight to the smell of toast. It took a while, longer than it should have, to register where he was. The residue of two days’ hospital drugging was leaving, but slowly. Wherever he was, he was grateful the sun’s dazzle did not hurt his head. He sat up and noticed socks folded neatly on the rug like broken feet.”² Two elements here bear attention and may be seen as relevant in reading Simpson’s work: Morrison’s reference to both a “dream dappled with body parts”



and socks “like broken feet.” These are not necessarily literal, for when reading Morrison’s words, pausing in particular on the mental images conjured by these “body parts” and these “broken feet,” it is understood that this kind of narrative skews the relationship between fiction and reality. We enter a very visual world through imagination; we see what the author speaks of; we intuitively grasp what she evokes. The second is the question of point of view. Where do we stand when we observe a scene? How might we reassemble the scattered elements? The body fragments? The repetitions? Admittedly, African American literary and visual culture is an important reference that helps us to grasp the foundations—and read between the lines—of Simpson’s work. As Deborah Willis, an authority on black photography in the United States, suggests in her 1992 book about Simpson (which was one of the first monographs devoted to her work): “One could argue that within the African-American community, no art is developed without narrative, whether explicit or implied. Lorna Simpson’s photographic work is rooted in this tradition; it uses literal, suggestive and visual narratives to create a partly personal, partly fictional account of contemporary society.”³ At the same time, for Simpson, immersion in this tradition is mediated by her understanding of the approaches of other artists. She notes, for example, how important Chantal Akerman’s and Babette Mangolte’s films were to her. (Simpson took Mangolte’s course at the University of California, San Diego [UCSD], in 1985.) For both Akerman and Mangolte, the question of point of view is essential. As Akerman explains, speaking of her experience as director of Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce 1080 Bruxelles (1975) in an interview published in the California-based feminist publication Camera Obscura:

Fig. 16 Details, 1996 (detail)

I didn’t have any doubts about any of the shots. I was very sure of where to put the camera and when and why. It’s the first time I had that feeling so strongly. You know who is looking; you always know what the point of view is, all the time. It’s always the same.



function bit by bit, however, making the photograph no longer documentary but a document (informer and witness at the same time). Simpson also conveys a more critical approach to the “documentary” function of photography, in keeping with the conceptual positions she became familiar with when taking one-on-one courses with artists teaching at UCSD as part of her MFA studies during the early 1980s. For these artists, aesthetic analysis is inseparable from political faculty. Martha Rosler, a product of the same school of thought, notes:

Fig. 17 Three Seated Figures, 1989

A documentary image has two moments: (1) the “immediate,” instrumental one, in which an image is caught or created out of the stream of the present and held up as testimony, as evidence in the most legalistic of senses, arguing for or against a social practice and its ideological-theoretical supports, and (2) the conventional “aesthetic-historical” moment, less definable in its boundaries, in which It was not a neutral look—that doesn’t exist anyhow. The way I looked at what was going on was a look of love and respect. I let her live her life in the middle of the frame.⁴

In her collaboration with Mangolte, who was the film’s director of photography, Akerman arranged for the camera not to move. Her own height determined the framing. As a result, when the character played by Delphine Seyrig is standing or stands up, her upper body is cut off. Mangolte, in her own 1976 film What Maisie Knew, privileges a child’s point of view and affirms the usage of a “subjective camera.”⁵ The way Simpson frames the women’s (and men’s) bodies that she photographs is based on a similar principle. Although we could consider Simpson’s Gestures/ Reenactments (1985; pp. 66–67), Five Day Forecast (1988; pp. 72–73), or Three Seated Figures (1989; fig. 17), to cite but a few of her works, as “off-frame” since faces are not visible, we could also say, based on what Akerman proposes, that these bodies, with their heads and legs



amputated, translate a different story and send us back to a subjective scale in which the “whole” expresses itself as a fragment. Like the absolute rigor imposed by Akerman on her actress and her framing, Simpson’s approach is astutely based on the model of objective photography that privileges a frontal and perfectly impartial perspective, yet her work turns on the moment when the viewer’s gaze pierces this facade of forced neutrality. The choice of point of view is obviously a crucial question in photography. The decisions the artist makes about what to record, what is or isn’t in the frame, the interactions between images, and what we see and what is out of frame all coalesce in defining and elaborating an extremely precise aesthetic and critical position. Simpson began to shoot black-and-white photographs to capture moments of New York life when she was studying photography at the School of Visual Arts at the end of the 1970s. We know that she is very well versed in the history of documentary photography through her studies. She would deconstruct its

Fig. 18 Completing the Analogy, 1987

the viewer’s argumentativeness cedes to the organismic pleasure afforded by the aesthetic “rightness”

or well-formedness (not necessary formal) of the image. The second moment is ahistorical in its refusal of specific historical meaning yet “history minded” in its awareness of the pastness of the time in which the image was made. This covert appreciation of images is dangerous insofar as it accepts not a dialectical relation between political and formal meaning.⁶

Figure (fig. 15, p. 89), made by Simpson in 1991, could be an illustration of the dialectic suggested by Rosler and may also serve as a reminder of the importance of representation’s and interpretation’s many declensions. Figure allows us to figure that this figure of a woman from the back, on a black background, wearing black clothes and black shoes, harks back to hypotheses that the word figure can operate according to its various definitions. All these definitions, in one way or another, reinforce the impossibility of arriving at definitive conclusions: the form of what we figure “figures the worst,” disfigures itself (“he was disfigured”), becomes suspicious (“figured she [or he] was suspect”), and even envisions the moment prior to the photographic apparatus’s presence (“figured on all the times there was no camera”). The dialectic relation between the image and the text is precisely what allows for the union between political and formal significance recalled by Rosler, even though the force of the figure is indeed apparent in its vanishing. As we decipher Simpson’s works, the pieces themselves become their own tools for critical analysis. Simultaneously subject and object, they inflect possibilities for reflection: the forms of historical narration and vast tracts of memory concentrate themselves in photographic and semantic spaces. This very particular, ongoing back-and-forth makes for an oscillation from the objective to the subjective and vice versa. An almost clinical and nearly indescribable sensation is prompted by looking at these works composed of body fragments, framed and accompanied by text. There is no affect to hold on to. “Amnesia,” “Error,” “Indifference,” “Omission,” and “Uncivil” make up the texts of Easy for Who to Say (1989); “Sex Attacks” and “Skin Attacks”



Five Day Forecast, 1988


Detail, text panel The Clocktower, 1995


Barbara Log #1, 2008

Barbara Log #3, 2008

Barbara Log #2, 2008

Barbara Log #4, 2008



1957–2009, 2009 (details)


Day Time, 2011

Day Time (gold), 2011


Born 1960 in Brooklyn; lives and works in Brooklyn

EDUCATION 1985 MFA, visual arts, University of California, San Diego 1983 BFA, photography, School of Visual Arts, New York

SOLO EXHIBITIONS 2013 Lorna Simpson, organized by Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography, Minneapolis and Lausanne, Switzerland; Jeu de Paume, Paris; Haus der Kunst; Munich; Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, MA. 2011 Lorna Simpson: Momentum, Salon 94 Bowery, New York Lorna Simpson: Gathered, Brooklyn Museum 2010 Walker Art Center, Minneapolis 2009 Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris 2008 Ink, Salon 94 Freemans and Salon 94, New York 2007 Lorna Simpson: Duet, Studio Museum in Harlem, New York 2006–7 Lorna Simpson, organized by American Federation of the Arts; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Miami Art Museum; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Kalamazoo Institute of Art, Kalamazoo, MI; Gibbes Museum, Charleston, SC

2004 Lorna Simpson: Videos and Photographs, Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris Lorna Simpson: 31, Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL Sean Kelly Gallery, New York Lorna Simpson: Corridor, Wohnmaschine, Berlin College of Wooster Art Museum, Wooster, OH; Walter E. Terhune Gallery, Owens Community College, Toledo, OH Compostela: Lorna Simpson, Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea, Santiago de Compostela, Spain

1998 Lorna Simpson: Call Waiting, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto Galeria Javier Lopez, Madrid

2003 Consejo Nacional Para la Cultura y las Artes, Mexico City Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin

1996 Details, Karen McCready Fine Art, New York

2002 Lorna Simpson: Cameos and Appearances and Lorna Simpson: 31, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York Studio Museum in Harlem, New York Centro de Arte de Salamanca, Salamanca, Spain Lorna Simpson: Easy to Remember, Weatherspoon Art Museum, University of North Carolina, Greensboro 2001 Sean Kelly Gallery, New York Presentation House Gallery, Vancouver, Canada 2000 CCA Kitakyushu Project Gallery, Kitakyushu, Japan 1999–2001 Scenarios: Recent Work by Lorna Simpson, Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, MA; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC; Sean Kelly Gallery, New York

2005 Lorna Simpson: 31, Prefix Institute of Contemporary Art, Toronto

1997–98 Lorna Simpson: Interior/Exterior, Full/Empty, Wexner Center for the Arts, Ohio State University, Columbus 1997 Sean Kelly Gallery, New York Lorna Simpson: New Work Series, Miami Art Museum

1995 Sean Kelly Gallery, New York Lorna Simpson: “Wigs,” Albrecht Kemper Museum of Art, Saint Joseph, MO Cohen/Berkowitz Gallery, Kansas City, MO Wiener Secession, Vienna Wigs: An Installation of Prints on Felt, Richard Levy Gallery, Albuquerque, NM Lorna Simpson: An Exhibition of Photographic Works, Manchester Craftsman’s Art Guild, Pittsburgh 1994 Standing in the Water, Whitney Museum of American Art at Phillip Morris, New York; Fabric Workshop, Philadelphia Lorna Simpson: New Works, Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago Wigs, Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego 1993 Josh Baer Gallery, New York Works by Lorna Simpson, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston Lorna Simpson: Recent Work, John Berggruen Gallery, San Francisco Shoshana Wayne Gallery, Santa Monica, CA

9 Props, 1995 (detail, Tea Time at Madame C. J. Walker’s Beauty Salon)



The Jeu de Paume, the Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography, and the curator of the exhibition would like to thank the lenders, who made this exhibition possible: Melva Bucksbaum and Raymond Learsy Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris Jennifer McSweeney Rennie Collection, Vancouver Ringier Collection, Zurich Salon 94, New York Lorna Simpson Isabelle and Charles Berkovic

The artist would like to thank: Joan Simon, for creating this wonderful opportunity; catalogue authors Naomi Beckwith, Marta Gili, Thomas J. Lax, Joan Simon, and Elvan Zabunyan; Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn, Alissa Friedman, Luis Alonzo, Victoria Keddie, Sarah Walzer, and Jacob Berezin, Salon 94; Nathalie Obadia and Corinne Prat, Galerie Nathalie Obadia; Yosra El-Essawy, studio assistant; Megan Feingold, Museum of Modern Art, New York; Kellie Jones, for her wonderful insights on art and for suggesting that I interview for a receptionist job in 1985; Zora, for our many exchanges about what can happen in front of, and behind, the camera.

This book is published on the occasion of the exhibition Lorna Simpson presented by Jeu de Paume, Paris (May 28–September 1, 2013).

The Lorna Simpson colloquia at the Jeu de Paume are made possible through


the generous support of the Terra Foundation for American Art. The Jeu de Paume, the Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography, and the curator of the exhibition express their heartfelt gratitude to: Brian T. Allen, Addison Gallery of American Art Naomi Beckwith Jennifer Donnelly, Terra Foundation for American Art Okwui Enwezor, Haus der Kunst, Munich Alissa Friedman, Salon 94, New York Elizabeth Glassman, Terra Foundation for American Art Thelma Golden Flora Irving Kellie Jones Victoria Keddie, Salon 94, New York Allison N. Kemmerer, Addison Gallery of American Art Alan Kennedy Thomas J. Lax Elisabeth Lebovici Gregory R. Miller and Michael Wiener Jason Moran Nathalie Obadia, Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris Corinne Prat, Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris Guthrie Ramsey, Jr. Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn, Salon 94, New York Kira Simon-Kennedy Veerle Thielmans, Terra Foundation for American Art Whitney Museum of American Art, New York Sarah Willis Elvan Zabunyan

The exhibition is coproduced by the Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography (FEP) and Jeu de Paume, Paris, in association with the Haus der Kunst, Munich. CURATOR OF THE EXHIBITION Joan Simon

MINNEAPOLIS/PARIS/LAUSANNE Executive Director: Todd Brandow Curator, Director FEP Minnesota: Luke Erickson Curator, Director FEP Switzerland: Nathalie Herschdorfer Assistant Curator: Nathalie Dietschy

JEU DE PAUME PARIS Director: Marta Gili General Secretary: Maryline Dunaud Administrative and Financial: Claude Bocage Exhibitions: Véronique Dabin Technical Services: Pierre-Yves Horel Public Programs: Marta Ponsa Bookshop: Pascal Priest Communications: Anne Racine Educational Programs : Sabine Thiriot Exhibition Exhibition Coordinator: Élisabeth Galloy Registrar: Maddy Cougouluègnes Technical Coordinator: Éric Michaux Catalogue Publications: Muriel Rausch The Jeu de Paume is supported by a grant from the French Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication

Neuflize Vie is the main sponsor of the Jeu de Paume



Exhibition Itinerary Jeu de Paume, Paris May 28–September 1, 2013 Haus der Kunst, Munich October 10, 2013–January 19, 2014 Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts September 2, 2014–January 4, 2015

Copublished by the Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography 5028 Washburn Avenue South Minneapolis, MN 55410 USA Fep-photo.org Jeu de Paume 1, place de la Concorde 75008 Paris France www.jeudepaume.org and DelMonico Books, an imprint of Prestel, a member of Verlagsgruppe Random House GmbH Prestel Verlag Neumarkter Strasse 28 81673 Munich Germany Tel 49 89 4136 0 Fax 49 89 4136 2335 Prestel Publishing Ltd. 4 Bloomsbury Place London WC1A 2QA United Kingdom Tel 44 20 7323 5004 Fax 44 20 7636 8004 Prestel Publishing 900 Broadway, Suite 603 New York, NY 10003 Tel 212 995 2720 Fax 212 995 2733 sales@prestel-usa.com www.prestel.com

© 2013 Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography, Jeu de Paume, and Prestel Verlag, .VOJDIt-POEPOt/FX:PSL


Works by Lorna Simpson © 2013 Lorna Simpson

All works by Lorna Simpson are © the artist. Most photographs are reproduced courtesy of the creators and/or owners of the material depicted and their representatives. The publishers would appreciate notification of additional credits for acknowledgment in future editions. Numbers refer to the page on which an image appears.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any other information storage and retrieval system, or otherwise without written permission from the publisher. ISBN: 978-3-7913-5266-4 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Lorna Simpson / Joan Simon ; with contributions by Naomi Beckwith, Marta Gili, Thomas J. Lax, Elvan Zabunyan. pages cm Summary: “This comprehensive catalogue of Lorna Simpson’s critically-acclaimed 30-year body of work highlights her photo-text pieces as well as film and video installations to reveal how the artist explores identity, memory, gender, history, fantasy, and reality”— Provided by publisher. “Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography, Minneapolis/Paris/Lausanne, Jeu de Paume, Paris, In association with Haus der Kunst, Munich.” Includes bibliographical references. ISBN 978-3-7913-5266-4 (hardback) 1. Simpson, Lorna, 1960-—Exhibitions. I. Simpson, Lorna, 1960- Works. II. Simon, Joan, 1949- Easy to remember, hard to forget. III. Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography. IV. Jeu de paume (Gallery : France) V. Haus der Kunst München. N6537.S5554A4 2013 770.92—dc23 2013007591 Front cover: Waterbearer, 1986 (detail); gelatin silver print, vinyl lettering; 59 x 80 x 2¼ in. (149.9 x 203.2 x 5.7 cm) overall; courtesy the artist. Back cover: Chess, 2013 (still); HD video installation with three projections, black and white, sound; score and performance by Jason Moran; 10:25 minutes (loop); courtesy the artist; Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris/Brussels; and Salon 94, New York. Editor: Karen Jacobson Prestel editor: Ryan Newbanks Designer: Miko McGinty, with Rita Jules and Anjali Pala Production manager: Karen Farquhar Printed in China


© APRA Foundation Berlin; courtesy the Adrian Piper Research Foundation Berlin: 50. Courtesy CCS Bard / Hessel Museum of Art: 82–83. Photo © 2007 D. James Dee: 66–67, 74–75, 85, 97, 144–45. Courtesy Stan Douglas and David Zwirner, New York / London: 59. Photo Yosra El-Essawy: 185, 187. Courtesy Josh Baer Gallery: 15 (bottom). Courtesy Karen McCready Fine Art: 24. © Barbara Kruger; courtesy Mary Boone Gallery, New York: 58. Courtesy Museum of Modern Art, New York; photo by John Wronn: 61. © Gabriel Orozco; courtesy the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York: 62. Photo © 1990. Ellen Wilson Page: 13. © Yvonne Rainer; courtesy Video Data Bank, www.vdb.com: 51. Courtesy Sean Kelly Gallery, New York: 16, 36, 37, 69, 70–73, 78–79, 102–5, 107–9, 111–13, 124–25, 130–31. Courtesy Sean Kelly Gallery, New York; photo Wit McKay, New York: 81. Courtesy Cindy Sherman and Metro Pictures, New York: 47. © Estate of Robert Smithson / VG Bild-Kust, Bonn 2012; courtesy James Cohan Gallery; photo Christopher Burke: 53.

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Lorna Simpson Ausstellungskatalog  

Lorna Simpson Ausstellungskatalog