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b. 1964, USA

Gary Simmons Biography

In his energetic and varied practice, Gary Simmons considers the past's influence on the present and the present's ambivalent relationship with the past. In doing so, he portrays bodies as composites of previous moments' traces, utilising media including painting, sound, and sculpture.

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Upon his completion of a BFA from the School of Visual Arts, New York, in 1988 and an MFA from the California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, in 1990, Gary Simmons returned to New York and began a series of drawings in chalk on slate-covered paper. These drawings formed the groundwork for his 'erasure' works: a still-ongoing investigation in which the artist appropriates and re-examines early 20th-century cartoon characters that caricatured black Americans.

In the large-scale erasure painting Piano Man (2020), the image of a cartoon character playing a piano has been smudged across the canvas in a series of sharp horizontal movements. In a 2020 interview with Ocula Magazine, Simmons observed that 'When you attempt to erase something, there's always a trace left behind.' History does not clean so easily—the artist's act shows that erasure only adds another layer to the subject's past.

Extending his interest in erasure as it pertains to African American history and culture, and the need to fill the gaps created by such erasure, Simmons later began incorporating blurred text into his oeuvre. For the artist's installation Fade to Black, at the California African American Museum in Los Angeles (2017–2019), he painted and subsequently rubbed away the titles of silent films featuring all-African American casts on the walls of the institution's lobby.

As well as painting, Gary Simmons has utilised a number of sculptural media throughout his career. A pivotal early work, 6X (1990), presented six child-size Ku Klux Klan robes on a rack, while Lineup (1993) consisted of eight pairs of gilded basketball shoes placed in front of a wall with police line-up height markings. Such early works honed the artist's interest in the political charge that absent bodies, histories, and stories can still hold in a space.

Gary Simmons garnered significant critical attention in 2014 for his stacked speaker piece Recapturing Memories of the Black Ark. Inspired by Jamaican sound systems, the work was a living sculpture that invited musicians to utilise for performances and leave whatever configuration they had used for those performances. The work's ongoing history offers both a contrasting and complementary approach to the record of the past offered by the artist's erasure series.

Across his more-than-30-year career, Gary Simmons has presented solo exhibitions at many prestigious institutions, including Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, D.C.; and Kunsthaus Zürich. His artworks are held in the collections of Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; and Jumex Collection, Mexico City, amongst others.

Casey Carsel | Ocula | 2020

Gary Simmons Featured Artworks

Hangfire by Gary Simmons contemporary artwork
Gary SimmonsHangfire, 2019Oil paint and cold wax on canvas
182.9 x 182.9 cm
Hauser & Wirth Contact Gallery
Pressure Drop by Gary Simmons contemporary artwork
Gary SimmonsPressure Drop, 2021UltraChrom posters, glue and paint on aluminium
243.8 x 182.2 x 2.5 cm
Hauser & Wirth Contact Gallery

Gary Simmons Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, WORDS at Simon Lee Gallery, London
Closed
10–31 July 2020 Group Exhibition WORDS Simon Lee GalleryLondon
Contemporary art exhibition, Gary Simmons, Screaming into the Ether at Metro Pictures, New York
Closed
7 July–19 September 2020 Gary Simmons Screaming into the Ether Metro PicturesNew York
Contemporary art exhibition, Gary Simmons, Dancing in Darkness at Simon Lee Gallery, Hong Kong
Closed
4 July–29 August 2020 Gary Simmons Dancing in Darkness Simon Lee GalleryHong Kong

Gary Simmons Represented By

Hauser & Wirth contemporary art gallery in Hong Kong Hauser & Wirth New York, Southampton, Los Angeles, London, Somerset, Gstaad, St. Moritz, Zurich, Hong Kong

Gary Simmons In Ocula Magazine

Hauser & Wirth Snaps Up Global Representation of Gary Simmons Ocula News Hauser & Wirth Snaps Up Global Representation of Gary Simmons Los Angeles, 26 March 2021

Gary Simmons and Cindy Sherman both signed with the mega gallery after departing Metro Pictures.

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Gary Simmons ‘Dancing in Darkness’ Ocula Insight  |  Sponsored Content | Simon Lee Gallery Gary Simmons ‘Dancing in Darkness’ By Diana d’Arenberg, Hong Kong

New York-born, Los Angeles-based sculptor, installation artist, and painter Gary Simmons retraces, reclaims and reconstructs African-American history.

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Gary Simmons: History as Residue Ocula Conversation Gary Simmons: History as Residue By Casey Carsel, New York

Looking at the racial stereotypes of 20th-century cartoons, Gary Simmons' canvases are palimpsests in which history is written and rewritten, yet never fully disappears.

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Gary Simmons In Related Press

His art centers on African American actors whose film titles 'Fade to Black' Related Press His art centers on African American actors whose film titles 'Fade to Black' 12 July 2017, Los Angeles Times

The California African American Museum is teeming with ghosts. They haunt its lobby atrium, which is airy and still, bleached out from sunlight seeping in through a canopy of skylights onto stark white walls.

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Here's the Artist List for the 2015 Venice Biennale Related Press Here's the Artist List for the 2015 Venice Biennale 6 March 2015, Art News

Yes! After months and months of speculation, prayers, and rumors, the Venice Biennale has released the artist list for its 56th edition, “All the World’s Futures,” which is being curated by Okwui Enwezor. At a quick glance, it looks like a thrillingly eclectic list, counting among its participants giants like Bruce Nauman, Adrian...

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