Lorna Simpson, Blue Dark (2018). Ink and screenprint on gessoed fiberglass. 102 x 144 x 1 3/8 inches. © Lorna Simpson. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: James Wang.
Mammoth scale paintings of glaciers drenched in nocturnal blues guard Lorna Simpson's Brooklyn Navy Yard studio on a rainy April day. This is the type of blue that permeates the sky at the darkest hour of the night, when above us is so pitch black that the sky resembles a dense blue. The same blue is echoed in Tarell Alvin McCraney's play I_n Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue_, which Simpson and I discussed during our conversation between laughter, sighs, commiserations, and hugs towards the end. She is warm, maternal, determined, and ardent, cracking into laughter during hefty conversations about art, social justice, and the history of Black America.
Simpson's benevolent yet piercing approach to life is not far from how her art grasps us under the guise of beautiful images of models from magazine spreads. Her unassuming warmth and determination to always look into my eyes during our conversation melts the breeze emanating from her paintings of mountainous ice chunks gloriously standing at remote corners of the world. She blows up images culled from science publications and prints them onto gessoed fiberglass, after adding occasional cutouts of text. Then, the surface is hers to paint into blue, horizontally or on the floor, letting the blues build serpentine paths on the surface. In the far corner of her spacious studio, blown up images of women pulled from Ebony and Jet magazine ads stare in convincing perfection. Arguably her most extensively know works, her collages of women from vintage magazine ads have over the decades evolved into bridges between America's past and present histories of race and visibility.