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

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Can You Hear Me Now? by Gary Simmons contemporary artwork painting, works on paper
Gary Simmons Can You Hear Me Now?, 2021 Oil and cold wax on canvas
152.4 x 152.4 cm
Hauser & Wirth Enquire
Can You Hear Me Now? by Gary Simmons contemporary artwork painting, works on paper
Gary Simmons Can You Hear Me Now?, 2021 Oil and cold wax on canvas
152.4 x 152.4 cm
Hauser & Wirth Enquire
On Point (Big Sur) by Gary Simmons contemporary artwork painting
Gary Simmons On Point (Big Sur), 2007 Pigment and oil on canvas
137.2 x 137.2 cm
Hauser & Wirth Enquire
Rogue Wave by Gary Simmons contemporary artwork painting
Gary Simmons Rogue Wave, 2021 Oil and cold wax on canvas
274.3 x 304.8 cm
Hauser & Wirth Enquire
Hold Up, Wait A Minute by Gary Simmons contemporary artwork painting
Gary Simmons Hold Up, Wait A Minute, 2021 Oil and cold wax on canvas
243.8 x 182.9 x 5.1 cm
Hauser & Wirth Enquire
Queen of The Night by Gary Simmons contemporary artwork painting, drawing
Gary Simmons Queen of The Night, 2019 Acrylic, charcoal, and oil on canvas
158.1 x 122.2 x 5.1 cm
Hauser & Wirth Enquire
Glass Pavilion Drag Study by Gary Simmons contemporary artwork painting, works on paper
Gary Simmons Glass Pavilion Drag Study, 2007 Pigment and oil on paper, six parts
247.7 x 167.6 cm
Hauser & Wirth Enquire
Pressure Drop by Gary Simmons contemporary artwork works on paper
Gary Simmons Pressure Drop, 2021 UltraChrom posters, glue and paint on aluminium
243.8 x 182.2 x 2.5 cm
Hauser & Wirth Enquire

Gary Simmons Recent Exhibitions

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Gary Simmons Represented By

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

Gary Simmons In Ocula Magazine

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Gary Simmons In Related Press

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