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Lorna Simpson at Salon 94 Bowery

Art Scene

Lorna Simpson at Salon 94 Bowery

Entering Lorna Simpson’s self-titled exhibition is like entering an epic allegorical poem. As one descends the stairs into the cavernous Salon 94 Bowery gallery, the space’s cathedral-like ceilings create an intimate experience.


Photo Credit: Anders Jones

Simpson, who gained recognition early on in her career as a photographer, has steadily evolved into an interdisciplinary artist who often uses found photography as her muse. In this exhibition, originally on view at the 56th Venice Biennale, photography is present. However, it is indeed presented as part of her first formal exhibition of paintings.

Dramatic, sublime, beautiful, political and poignant, Lorna Simpson the exhibition is an intersection of photography, painting and collage. Using ink, acrylic and printed photographs on multi-paneled clayboard, the work holds to a base color palette of black, grey and white with flares of red, teal blue and yellow expertly placed on select pieces. The printed photographic images are repurposed from the pages of Ebony, an iconic monthly African American magazine. The era that Simpson draws from is the 1970s.


Photo Credit: Anders Jones


Several of the pieces continue to reflect Simpson’s interest in the deconstruction of both images and identity. Her brushstrokes are also reminiscent of her well-regarded bodies of work, Head Series and Ebony Collages, although now presented in a different context.

Vertical brushstrokes performed in both upward and downward movements openly convey the presence of paint and painter, and suggest the surging force of fire toward the sky and the downward torrent of a rainstorm toward the earth. In a piece titled, Detroit (Ode to G.), a horizontal brushstroke suggests wind, adding to the photographic imagery in the work of an explosion in an urban environment. Plumes of smoke rise high into the sky on a commercial and residential block.

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Photo Credit: Anders Jones


Detroit (Ode to G.) features a series of panels that connect in a grid to create one large-scale piece at 108 x 96 inches. The photographic imagery of a portion of the panels flows smoothly, overlapping onto neighboring panels to keep the original image in tact. However, other panels in the piece are turned upside down or sideways, lending a sense of collage to the overall work. One upside down panel in the lower half of the painting directs plumes of smoke down, an echo to the smoke in the top half of the painting directed toward the sky.


Photo Credit: Anders Jones

Additional images at a smaller scale read like mystery books, with isolated deconstructed images from fashion, text and the human body, amidst carefully rendered abstract painterly gestures. Collectively, the work in this exhibition keeps viewers looking for clues to Simpson’s underlying politics, while simultaneously enrapturing them with beauty and elegance.

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