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Lorna Simpson at the Irish Museum of Modern Art

The first solo exhibition in Ireland by the leading African-American photographic artist and filmmaker Lorna Simpson opens to the public at the Irish Museum of Modern Art on Wednesday 27 February 2003. ‘Lorna Simpson: Photoworks and Films 1986 – 2002’ comprises 13 photoworks and two films by one of the key representatives of black-American visual culture. These range from early and recent photographic works addressing racial and sexual issues to her recent film works which continue her exploration of the visible and the invisible and other ambiguities and contradictions associated with identity.

Lorna Simpson first came to public attention in the 1980s with her elegant, often haunting, photographic images of black women seen from behind, in profile or with their identity otherwise obscured, usually accompanied by equally enigmatic fragments of text. Omitting information that would allow the subject to the identified, Simpson invites viewers to interpret the image for themselves. In the signature piece, ‘Waterbearer’, 1986, we see the graceful figure of a woman, with her back to the camera, pouring water from two containers. One is silver; the other plastic, seeming to represent opposite ends of the economic spectrum, or women of all classes denied expression and power.

In the mid-1990s Simpson began creating editions in which photographic imagery and texts were printed on panels of dense felt, hung in groupings to create large-scale images or multi-image tableaux. In this series urban and outdoor scenes are depicted. The body disappears surviving only in the textual narratives, which range from a conversation between people arranging to meet in a public place to a commentary on surveillance. ‘The Park’, 1995, is composed of 6 felt panels accompanied by a text panel which describes a lone sociologist who spends years collecting ‘data’ in a public lavatory, while nearby in a high-rise building a couple unpack their new telescope.

Simpson’s early concentration on the figure evolved into an interest in physical space and narrative story-telling, leading on to an exploration of the moving image and the medium of film. In these works, although dialogue, gesture and location replace the more conceptual representation of the photographs, the same sense of fragmentation and ambivalence persists. In her second film work ‘Call Waiting’, 1997, Simpson uses a single large-scale projection to present a fragmented narrative based around six characters whose interlinking lives are presented through a series of telephone conversations in several different languages. It evokes, in Simpson’s words “a slippage, a space between what one is saying on the phone and what’s actually going on”. These ambiguities reflect Simpson’s stated desire that, despite its racial and feminist content, her work should not be “boxed in” or used to support a particular racial or gender-based agenda. Simpson’s new photographic series, ‘Cameos and Appearances’, 2001/2002, some of which were shown in the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2002 are also included in the exhibition.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1960, where she continues to live and work, Lorna Simpson trained at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, she received her MA from the University of California, San Diego, where she studied film and fine arts. Simpson was the first African-American woman ever to show at the Venice Biennale in 1993, and to have a Projects exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Recent solo exhibitions include the Centro de Arte Contemporaneo, Salamanca, Spain, the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and Documenta 11, Kassel, 2002.

On Thursday 27 February at 11.30am Lorna Simpson will discuss her work with Thelma Golden, Deputy Director of the Studio Museum, Harlem, New York. This discussion will take place in the lecture room. Booking essential.

Lorna Simpson continues until 20 July 2003

Admission is free.

A major new monograph, including essays by Thelma Golden and Chrissie Iles, Curator, Whitney Museum of Modern Art, New York, accompanies the exhibition (price €39.95).

Opening hours: Tue – Sat 10.00am – 5.30pm
Sun & Bank Holidays 12 noon – 5.30pm
Mondays & 18 April Closed

For further information and colour and black and white images please contact Monica Cullinane at Tel : +353 1 612 9900, Fax : +353 1 612 9999 Email : [email protected]