For Students

Past Exhibitions: 2001

Scenarios: Recent Work by Lorna Simpson

February 24 - May 13, 2001
Twentieth Century and West Galleries

Noted for spare yet provocative assemblages of photographic images/view and text, Brooklyn artist Lorna Simpson (b. 1960) was trained in documentary photography. She eventually became more interested in how a photograph is "read" by the viewer, an interest that links her to a conceptual shift in contemporary art from art as object to art as process. For Simpson, the meaning of her work is not simply a given, waiting to be discovered by the perceptive viewer. Instead, her work explores the relationship between what we see and what we know - or rather, what we thought we knew. As Simpson herself has said, "I don't like to give viewers what they expect in a typical photograph. I like to let them fill in the gaps."

In this exhibition of work done in the late 1990s, Simpson pushes this strategy even further. Organized by the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, it features Simpson's film installations, related photographic works, and several very large, multi-panel tableaux printed on dense sheets of felt. The issues addressed in Simpson's work are not easy ones - the political dimensions of sex and race, the cultural construction of identity, and the coercive aspects of language and representation. The artist draws inspiration for these works from her own experience, the current political climate, and repressed or denied aspects of American history, relying on metaphor, suggestion, and biography to intrigue visitors and challenge them to take a second, more nuanced look at contemporary issues.

Lorna Simpson's scenarios are metaphors for asserting individual worth and identity against stereotypical categories of gender, race, or class. Challenging viewers to think more critically, her works are metaphors for the culturally constructed processes by which we make sense - or nonsense - of the world around us. As critic Andy Grundberg has observed, "At a time when relations between races, cultures and genders are often confused and uncomfortable, Simpson's efforts to reveal the knots of ignorance and misunderstanding that restrict our sense of community have an importance that goes beyond the usual perimeters of art."

Scenarios: Recent Work by Lorna Simpson was organized by Walker Art Center, Minneapolis. It is made possible by generous support from the Arthur and Alice Kramer Foundation. Additional support provided by Schneider Company.

The Ann Arbor presentation of this exhibition has been made possible by the Friends of the Museum of Art. Additional support has been provided by the following University of Michigan units: The Center for Afroamerican and African Studies, The Department of the History of Art, The Center for the Education of Women's Frances and Sydney Lewis Visiting Leaders Fund, The Institute for the Humanities, The Institute for Research on Women and Gender, and The Penny W. Stamps Distinguished Visitors Program of the School of Art & Design. Educational programs are funded in part by the Katherine Tuck Enrichment Fund.

 

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