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b. 1960, USA

Lorna Simpson Biography

Lorna Simpson is an American artist best known for her pioneering conceptual photography, which challenges historical and persisting misconceptions about gender, race and cultural identity.

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Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1960, Lorna Simpson spent time in Europe and Africa in the late 1970s, where she became acutely aware of documentary photography's limitations and the voyeurism it promoted.

Receiving her BFA at the School of Visual Arts, New York in 1982, followed by an MFA from the University of California in 1985, where she was taught by Allan Kaprow and Eleanor Antin, she devised ways of upending the relationship between image and audience, and the assumed 'truth' supplied by documentary styles. Her photo-text technique emerged, a now characteristic visual layering with text superimposed and placed alongside her photographs. Works like Gestures and Reenactments (1985) question the interrelationship between text and image, scrutinising the forces determining representation.

It is Lorna Simpson's interest in sources of authorship and historical memory that shaped her work throughout the 1980s. With a forensic eye, Simpson picked apart the narrow languages and images used to present African American people, often compiling fragmented photos to suggest depersonalisation and objectification.

During the 1980s, her prominence grew and her reputation for critical examination of American society was cemented. Stereo Styles (1988), one of Lorna Simpson's most notable works, challenged the identities aligned with and projected upon black women and how gender and culture shape life experiences in America. Two rows of images capturing the backs of women's heads with different hairstyles is juxtaposed with single descriptive words, including 'Magnetic' and 'Sweet'.

In 1990, Lorna Simpson became the first African American woman to exhibit at 44th Venice Biennale, and the first African American woman to have work presented in the 'Projects' series at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The portraits included in the MoMA show tackled sexuality, desire, and the racism ingrained in photographs by presenting faceless bodies framed with words including 'identify'.

Since then, Lorna Simpson's practice has expanded to include, film, sculpture, painting, collage, and drawing. Her films are stages for surreal conversations, which often mark continuity between characters who might traditionally be considered unrelated.

Her sculptures, like Unanswerable (2018), offset historic images taken from vintage Ebony and Jet magazines with natural landscape photos. The incongruous compositions reflect on the complex and absurd aspects of contemporary American life. As she has said, 'For me, the images hearken back to my childhood, but are also a lens through which to see the past fifty years in American history.'

Lorna Simpson solo exhibitions

Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Chicago, USA (2017); BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, UK (2014); Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn NY (2011); Walker Art Gallery, Minneapolis (2010); The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2007); Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, Texas (1993); Denver Art Museum, Denver CO (1990).

Lorna Simpson group exhibitions

The Naked Truth, Rijksmuseum Twenthe, Enschede, The Netherlands (2019); Selections from The Studio Museum in Harlem, The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2019); Outliers and American Vanguard Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles CA (2018); We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, Massachusetts MA (2018); What Absence is Made Of, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington DC (2017); Citizens, Tate Modern, London, United Kingdom (2017); Soulèvements (Uprisings), Jeu de Paume, Paris, France (2016); A History. Art, Architecture, Design from the 80s to Now, Centre Pompidou, Paris, France (2014); Auckland Triennial, Public/Private, Auckland, New Zealand (2004).

Ocula | 2020

Lorna Simpson Featured Artworks

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Rainfall by Lorna Simpson contemporary artwork print
Lorna SimpsonRainfall, 2021Ink and screenprint on gessoed fibreglass
191.8 x 149.9 x 3.5 cm
Hauser & Wirth Contact Gallery
Haze by Lorna Simpson contemporary artwork print
Lorna SimpsonHaze, 2019Ink and screenprint on gessoed fibreglass
274.3 x 243.8 x 3.5 cm
Hauser & Wirth Contact Gallery
Most relevant by Lorna Simpson contemporary artwork print, mixed media
Lorna SimpsonMost relevant, 2020Gessoed fibreglass panel
170.2 x 127 x 3.5 cm
Hauser & Wirth Contact Gallery
Rooftop by Lorna Simpson contemporary artwork works on paper, photography
Lorna SimpsonRooftop, 2019Found photograph and collage on paper; 2 framed collages
Hauser & Wirth Contact Gallery
The Sky by Lorna Simpson contemporary artwork works on paper, photography
Lorna SimpsonThe Sky, 2019Collage on paper; 6 framed collages
Hauser & Wirth Contact Gallery
January by Lorna Simpson contemporary artwork works on paper, photography
Lorna SimpsonJanuary, 2020Collage on paper
48 x 44.9 cm
Hauser & Wirth Contact Gallery
Then Comes Thunder by Lorna Simpson contemporary artwork works on paper, photography
Lorna SimpsonThen Comes Thunder, 2019Collage on paper
37 x 38.2 cm
Hauser & Wirth Contact Gallery
15 Mouths by Lorna Simpson contemporary artwork print, mixed media
Lorna Simpson15 Mouths, 2002Fifteen archival pigment prints on Velour paper, mounted on Hahnemühle Copperplate paper with deckled edge, with letterpress printed text on each sheet, with accompanying audio CD in portfolio case
10 x 8 inches
Krakow Witkin Gallery Contact Gallery

Lorna Simpson Current & Recent Exhibitions

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Lorna Simpson 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

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