In a body of work made for Frieze New York from May 5 to 7, 2017, American artist Lorna Simpson continues to explore notions of identity, gender and history in a riveting series of new paintings. Simpson’s canvases are complemented by new sculptures, with the artist taking up the medium for the first time in 20 years.
Here as in earlier works, Simpson is sparing with color. Her disciplined palette consists of inky blacks, grays and a startling acid blue that has only recently appeared in her oeuvre, contributing to its atmosphere of bristling movement. Simpson appropriates images from her collection of vintage Jet and Ebony magazines, layering these with Associated Press photographs of natural elements – ice in particular – and washes of saturated ink. Teetering between figuration and abstraction, these paintings juxtapose the calculated glamour of glossy magazines with the brute force of the natural world. By playing with both construction and destruction, Simpson’s canvases immerse viewers in layers of seductive paradoxes.
Alongside the paintings, Simpson will present a new series of sculptures that take up similar themes. Six hundred bronze “bracelets” are pinned to the wall in a shimmering cloud that seems to hover and undulate with the same energy generated by the canvases. Nearby are Simpson’s stacked sculptures, including a Brancusi-like bronze cast of a found laundry bin and vintage magazines and glistening “ice” blocks made of glass.
The messages of artist Lorna Simpson’s sculptures for Frieze New York are layered and multivalent, with metaphor, metonymy and formal prowess combining in a potent response to American life today. Her new works also offer a complex treatise on time, underscoring the present’s umbilical relation to the past. Despite the chaos erupting around them, the figures in Simpson’s canvases coolly stare back, persevering in spite of being “relentlessly consumed.”