Lorna Simpson was born in 1960 in Brooklyn, New York, and received her BFA in Photography from the School of Visual Arts, New York, and her MFA from the University of California, San Diego. When Lorna Simpson emerged from the graduate program at San Diego in 1985, she was already considered a pioneer of conceptual photography. Feeling a strong need to re-examine and re-define photographic practice for contemporary relevance, Simpson was producing work that engaged the conceptual vocabulary of the time by creating exquisitely crafted documents that are as clean and spare as the closed, cyclic systems of meaning they produce. Her initial body of work alone helped to incite a significant shift in the view of the photographic art’s transience and malleability.
Lorna Simpson first became well-known in the mid-1980s for her large- scale photograph-and-text works that confront and challenge narrow, conventional views of gender, identity, culture, history and memory. With unidentified figures as a visual point of departure, Simpson uses the figure to examine the ways in which gender and culture shape the interactions, relationships and experiences of our lives in contemporary America. In the mid-1990s, she began creating large multi-panel photographs printed on felt that depict the sites of public – yet unseen – sexual encounters. Over time she turned to film and video works in which individuals engage in enigmatic conversations that seem to address the mysteries of both identity and desire. Throughout her body of work, Simpson questions memory and representation, whether in her moving juxtaposition of text and image, in her haunting video projection Cloudscape and its echo in the felt work Cloud, or in her large-scale video installation Momentum which recreates a childhood dance performance. Using the camera as a catalyst, Simpson constructs work comprising text and image, parts to wholes, which comment on the documentary nature of found or staged images. In Simpson’s latest works, characteristic ambivalence is presented with hazy ink washes to present isolated figures amidst nebulous spaces– a return to and departure from her earlier unidentified figures in a deepened exploration of contemporary culture.
Her work has been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; the Miami Art Museum; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin. She has participated in such important international exhibitions as the Hugo Boss Prize at the Guggenheim Museum, New York, Documenta XI in Kassel, Germany, and the 56th Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy. She has been the subject of numerous articles, catalogue essays, and a monograph published by Phaidon Press. Her first mid-career survey was exhibited at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, the Miami Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Gibbes Museum in South Carolina with accompanying monograph published by the American Federation of the Arts, New York, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. In 2013 her works on paper were the subject of an exhibition at the Aspen Art Museum with accompanying catalogue “Lorna Simpson Works on Paper,” Aspen Art Museum. A survey retrospective, accompanied by a monograph “Lorna Simpson” published by Prestel Press, New York, premiered in 2013 at the Jeu de Paume, Paris, and traveled to the Haus der Kunst, Munich, and in 2014 to the The BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, England and the Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, Massachusetts. Most recently in 2016, Simpson’s new body of works were exhibited at Salon 94, New York and the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas.
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Lorna Simpson is represented by Hauser & Wirth.