In an exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum until August 21st, 2011, renown artist Lorna Simpson reexamines her questions about identity through history and Afro-American photographs. A dialogue with herself and with the spectator.
Lorna Simpson is an Afro-American artist and activist. After her time in New York’s School of Visual Arts, she began her career with a passion for street photography. She immediately commits herself socially to multiculturalism by documenting the sidewalks of New York through her eyes. She portrays what she sometimes perceives as vain, which then leads her to a different way of expression, one that is more contemplative and contemporary.
Not long after, she decides to abandon her everyday observation and replace it with photo shoots set in a studio, in order to create images that are strongly political and show a greater importance to symbolism. And as allegory sometimes needs interpretation, she would add words, usually phrases that motivate reflection, and even reaction – expressions she heard during a conversation or that she imagined while reading newspapers. Thus, one of the characteristics of Lorna Simpson can be spelled out in just a few letters: exchange.
In making personal commentary interact with image, and image with spectator, the artist seeks liberty of expression, for everyone. Nevertheless, each witness to her art is forced to be concerned about her favorite question: the racial issue. Born in Harlem in 1960 in the midst of the battle for the rights of the black community in the United States, Lorna Simpson was raised by the spirit of equality and the American multi-ethnicity that has for so long influenced a deep segment of her country’s culture.
Lorna Simpson : Gathered will be on view until August 21st, 2011 in the Brooklyn Museum, and takes this issue that has followed her since her early years, continuing to explore the interplay between fact and fiction, indentity and history. A work that began by the collection of hundreds of original photographs of Afro-Americans found on ebay.com or in flea markets, with the idea being to state the fact that material archives naturally create objective documents of history.
In a series entitled “May, June, July, August 1957/2009”, she presents 123 contemporary black and white photographs. Lorna Simpson then juxtaposes images of a young Afro-American woman (and occasionally of a man), posing for pin-up portraits in Los Angeles in 1957, and subsequently self-portraits in which the artist renacts the role and position of the model. Through her precise replications of the poses and the original shots, she associates history with her own staged answer, creating a narrative fiction in which the two characters seem connected in time, sharing the same identity or even a common destiny. “Even though photographs are historical documents, they’re also weighted with all these questions about the unknown”, explains Catherine Morris, the exhibition’s curator. An arrangement that gives these historical photographs a new story, and through identification they create a dialogue with history.
Lorna Simpson: Gathered
Until August 21
Brooklyn Museum, NY
Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, 4e étage.