THE CLASSIC BLUE matte-finish cover masks the wonder beyond. “Lorna Simpson: Works on Paper” is an enchanting march of portraits. It’s like a year book capturing various eras, page-after-page of watercolor images, painted by an artist with plenty to say.

There are graphite, ink and watercolor portraits of women, images of heads with flourishes of gold embossing powder, and a recent series of collages—black and white photographs of faces cut from vintage Ebony and Jet magazines embellished with watercolor coifs and, in some instances, text.

Lorna Simpson - works on paperKnown for her photography and video installations, about five years ago, Lorna Simpson began to draw. The shift in her practice has produced countless portraits, primarily of black women (and on occasion black men and white women). The works are statements of beauty, studies of image and identity, and interpretations African American experiences through historic representation.

Anna Deavere Smith contributes the text from a performance portraying Simpson, and essays by New Yorker staff writer Hilton Als; Franklin Sirmans, curator and head of contemporary art the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Connie Butler, chief curator at UCLA’s Hammer Museum; and Aspen Art Museum CEO and Director Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson, thoughtfully consider Simpson’s evolving practice and the four bodies of work included in the book.

About Simpson incorporating images from Ebony and Jet in her collages, Sirmans observers:

“The new body of work…does something else that has been little seen in the artist’s oeuvre, in that it employs found images, images that existed elsewhere, intended for something else.”

He continues:

“For Simpson, who is known for creating such iconic images that other, younger artists attempt to distinguish themselves through references to her work, both the drawings and these appropriations represent a step in another direction, and yet are wholly indicative of changes she has periodically made in order to keep her work so dynamic and of the moment.”

Published on the occasion of Simpson’s exhibition at the Aspen Art Museum and chock-full of images, this volume is a real treasure. CT

 

Lorna Simpson: Works on Paper by Lorna Simpson, et al. (Aspen Art Museum, 336 pages) Published Nov. 30, 2013.

 

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Pages 59-60: Top, from left, “Barbara Log #1,” 2008 (graphite and ink on log paper) and “Barbara Log #2,” 2008 (graphite and ink on log paper); Bottom, from left, “Barbara Log #3,” 2008 (graphite and ink on log paper); and “Barbara Log #4,” 2008 (graphite and acrylic paint on log paper).

 

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Page 59: Detail of “Barbara 001,” 2009 (graphite, ink and watercolor on paper).

 

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Pages 32-33: Top, from left, “Actress 2H,” 2007 (graphite, ink and watercolor on paper) and “Actress 2J,” 2007 (graphite, ink, watercolor, and acrylic); Bottom, from left, “Actress 2K,” 2007 (graphite, ink, watercolor, and acrylic) and “Actress 2G,” 2007 (graphite, ink and watercolor on paper).

 

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Pages 184-185: “Gold Head A2,” 2011 (ink and embossing powder on paper.

 

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Pages 198-199: “Top”, 2012 (collage and ink on paper).
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Pages 284-285: “Ebony 7,” 2010 (collage and ink on paper).

 

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Page 195: Detail of “Redhead,” 2011 (collage and ink on paper).

 

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Pages 246-247: Top, from left, “Don’t Know (Jet),” 2012 (collage and ink on paper) and “Jet Verdant,” 2012 (collage and ink on paper); Bottom, from left, “Jet Past?,” 2012 (collage and ink on paper) and “Jet Olive,” 2012 (collage and ink on paper).

 

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Page 315: Detail of “Miss Bettye,” 2013 (collage and ink on paper).

 

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