Saturday, April 30, 2011

Lorna Simpson

April 2, 2011

"Renowned for photographs, videos and text-works that challenge narrow, conventional views of gender, identity, culture, history, and memory, Lorna Simpson discusses her process and her most recent work, placing it in context within the larger span of her practice. Over the last five years, Simpson has been creating works that draw from an archive of photographs from the 1950s, complicating the historical images by creating her own replicas of these, posing herself to mimic the originals. The MCA Chicago organized Lorna Simpson's first traveling museum exhibition in 1992, and most recently featured early works by the artists in the exhibition Rewind 1970s to 1990s: Works from the MCA Collection. Her work is included in the upcoming 2012 MCA exhibition This Will Have Been: Art, Love, and Politics in the 1980s. " -mca chicago site.

I was lucky enough to catch Lorna's talk here in chicago. She spoke a lot about her transition of work as well as her side obsessions.
While in Seattle attending Pilchuck Glass School, she came across the work of James Van Der Zee and noticed the details in the picture- the vases in particular. In class she would recreate the vases and then photographed them.

9 Props, 1995, Waterless lithographs on 9 felt panels, 47 1/2 x 35 1/2 inches overall.

With each image of the vase, Simpson would describe the Van Der Zee image in text below. This is how the image is present.

The text reads:
Woman with a goldfish bowl., 1923, James Van Der Zee

A woman wearing pearls stands behind a bouquet of flowers and goldfish bowl.

Her right hand rests on the rim of the bowl, as she gazes at a painted image of a butterfly in flight.

Wigs II, 1996-2006, Waterless lithographs on felt.

What most people have seen of Simpson's work are pieces from her felt series. In the talk, she commented on how the wigs are 'surrogates' or unoccupied hair. They were a topic of gender, society of masculinity and femininity. Her point was to raise the idea of how malleable gender and appearance can be.

Easy to Remember, 2001, Video installation, 16mm black-and-white film transferred to DVD.
2 minutes, 35 seconds, sound.

This video piece is one of my favorite works by Lorna Simpson. While in school, I had only seen still shots or clips from the video but during her talk, we were able to watch it in her entirety. The mouths are all humming the same tune, John Cold Train. but with each person, the characteristics of the song change. Naturally, some take different keys and attitudes. They were filmed at different times, listening to the song through headphones, simply reacting and yet flow so well together. I love watching how anyone brings something different to the table because of who they are which is why i'm fascinated by this piece and what it says about people by comparing them in this style.

Cloudscape, 2004, Single-projectioin video installation.
Video transferred to DVD, 3 minutes, sound.
Performance by Terry Adkins.

Terry Atkins stands in a room wearing a suit and whisling a tune. As he continues, smoke begins to fill the room. By the end of the song, you lose visual of Atkins and when he finishes, the video goes in reverse. The smoke then creeps back to where it once came from and his whistle, now played backwards, turns into a different song with a different mood.

Corridor, 2003. Double-projection video installation, video transferred to DVD.
13 minutes, 45 seconds, sound.

The final work that she discussed during the talk was 'Corridor', a video piece that contrasts the basic daily life of an african american worman in 1860 to 1960. The woman is played by Wangechi Mutu, whose work I suggest you take a look at.

Head B, 2008, ink on paper, 11 x 8.5 inches. (left)
Head G, 2008, ink on paper, 11 x 8.5 inches. (right)

I have never been able to master the art of watercolors and inkwash drawings but I admire it extremely. This collection of work is something she did that follows the her interested in hair and it's purpose and possibilities. I love these so much and even though she says they she can't draw, I can't stop looking at them.

If you haven't checked out her work, do it. she's talented, amazing, and such a lovely person. I was so nervous to talk to her but somehow I got the courage to ask her a question during the talk and mumbled like an idiot. I stayed after, thanked her and spoke to her for a moment. Lorna Simpson can now be added to the list of amazing photographers I have met before dying, joining joel peter-witkin and arno rafael minkkinen-- so amazing.


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