For its first participation in EXPO Chicago, Hauser & Wirth will present a solo exhibition of recent paintings by celebrated American artist Lorna Simpson. These powerful works explore themes and motifs recurrent in Simpson's ongoing exploration of the nature of representation, identity, gender, race, and history. Her enigmatic tableaux subsume spliced photos and fragmented text in inky abstracted washes of bold and arresting colour.
Hauser & Wirth's EXPO Chicago presentation follows Simpson's recent New York solo exhibition, Darkening, in which the artist presented her monumentally scaled paintings to critical acclaim.
Simpson has a special relationship with Chicago through her long association with the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), where she serves as an Artist Trustee of the institution's Board. The MCA organised the artist's first major survey exhibition, For the Sake of the Viewer, in 1992 and today holds numerous important works by Simpson in its permanent collection. In 2017, the artist created a mural for the Museum's second-floor atrium in celebration of its 50th anniversary.
About the Artist
Born in Brooklyn, Lorna Simpson came to prominence in the 1980s with her pioneering approach to conceptual photography. Simpson's early work–particularly her striking juxtapositions of text and staged images–raised questions about the nature of representation, identity, gender, race and history that continue to drive the artist's expanding and multi-disciplinary practice today. She deftly explores the medium's umbilical relation to memory and history, both central themes within her work.
Studying on the West Coast in the mid-1980s, Simpson was part of a generation of artists who utilised conceptual approaches to undermine the credibility and apparent neutrality of language and images. Her most iconic works from this period depict figures as seen only from behind or in fragments. Photographed in a neutral studio space, the figures are tied neither to a specific place nor time. Drawing upon a long-standing interest in poetry and literature, the artist accompanies these images with her own fragmented text, which is at times infused with the suggestion of violence or trauma. The incredibly powerful works entangle viewers into an equivocal web of meaning, with what is unseen and left unsaid as important as that which the artist does disclose. Seemingly straightforward, these works are in fact near-enigmas, as complex as the subject matter they take on.
Over the past 30 years, Simpson has continued to probe these questions while expanding her practice to encompass various media including film and video, painting, drawing and sculpture. Her recent works incorporate appropriated imagery from vintage Jet and Ebony magazines, found photo booth images, and discarded Associated Press photos of natural elements–particularly ice, a motif that appears in her sculptural work in the form of glistening 'ice' blocks made of glass. The new work continues to immerse viewers in layers of bewitching paradoxes, threading dichotomies of figuration and abstraction, past and present, destruction and creation, and male and female. Layered and multivalent, Simpson's practice deploys metaphor, metonymy, and formal prowess to offer a potent response to American life today.