LORNA SIMPSON, “Cloud,” 2005.

 

FEATURING AN ICONIC CLOUD ELEMENT, a major work by Lorna Simpson sold for $70,000 ($87,500 including fees) at Sotheby’s New York earlier this month. The price was an artist record, according Ask Art, Art Price, and Sotheby’s auction results. “Cloud,” a 2005 serigraph printed on felt in nine parts was featured in Sotheby’s Contemporary Curated Sale on March 2. The estimate was $70,000-$100,000.

The consignor acquired the work directly from the artist more than a decade ago in 2007. The same work was offered for sale in 2010 in Phillips Photographs auction at half the estimate and went unsold.

Simpons’s previous auction record was set nearly five years ago, when “Lower Region,” a photographic triptych made in 1992, sold for 35,329 EUR ($47,793) including fees, at Tajan in Paris on Nov. 19, 2013. (The price realized far exceeded the estimate of 4,000-6,000 EUR.)

Known for her conceptual photography, Simpson is currently focused on painting, photographic collage, and mixed-media sculpture. She has constantly pursued new methods and new mediums throughout her more than 30-year career, at the same time often revisiting themes and concepts in new ways.

Brooklyn-based Simpson began printing on felt in the mid-1990s. The images have a tactile quality and absorb light rather than reflecting it (as with images produced on photographic paper). “Cloud” is an example of her innovative use of materials and echoes a theme she previously explored in a 2004 video installation titled “Cloudscape,” which featured the late artist Terry Adkins (1953-2014).

Joan Simon writes about “Cloud” and “Cloudscape” in the catalog published to document “Lorna Simpson,” the artist’s three-decade survey exhibition, which was curated by Simon:

    Simpson’s video installation Cloudscape (2004; pp. 140-41) isolates one man (the artist Terry Adkins) in a dark room, spotlighted as he whistles a tune and is enveloped in fog. For Simpson, whistling and humming are signs of the body generating music. Further, in this video, she picks up cues to the use of time that she had spelled out in the early photo-text works that mark days of the week or years and in the many narratives that begin with “when.” Here she plays with time itself, running the video forward and also backward in a continuous loop. In another form of reenactment, Simpson would transition from moving picture to still photograph the following year for one of her felt serigraphs, which recaptures a single image from the video. A trace of the video’s emphemeral image, the cloud of its title in the place of the now absent performer.

“In another form of reenactment, Simpson would transition from moving picture to still photograph the following year for one of her felt serigraphs, which recaptures a single image from the video. A trace of the video’s emphemeral image, the cloud of its title in the place of the now absent performer.” — Curator Joan Simon

The cloud concept also inspired a series of portraits Simpson made of the cast of Steve McQueen’s film “12 Years a Slave” for W magazine. In a 2014 interview, I asked her about the photographs, which appeared in the December 2013/January 2014 issue. She said the magazine was familiar with her work and suggested the idea.

“W came to me,” Simpson said. “They were familiar with my work and really loved a piece of mine called ‘Cloudscape’ that is a video and asked, ‘What about doing a shoot in terms of portraiture that is very similar to ‘Cloudscape?’ And I said, ‘Oh, that would be interesting to do.’ And so that’s kind of how that came about. It is really using an iconographic element from my own work to shoot these portraits of the actors.” CT

 

TOP IMAGE: Lot 281: LORNA SIMPSON, “Cloud,” 2005 (serigraph on felt flush-mounted to board, in 9 parts, Each: 27 3/4 x 27 7/8 inches, 70.5 x 70.8 cm.). This work is number 2 from an edition of 3, plus 2 artist’s proofs. | Estimate $70,000-$100,000. Sold for $70,000 ($87,500 including fees)

 

READ MORE About how artists might benefit from maintaining a stake in their work, based on a new study

 

BOOKSHELF
A new volume, “Lorna Simpson Collages,” is forthcoming in June. To further explore Lorna Simpson’s work, “Lorna Simpson” is a comprehensive catalogue documenting her body of work over the past three decades. Accompanying an exhibition of the same name, “Lorna Simpson: Works on Paper,” explores her collages and drawings. An earlier monograph simply titled “Lorna Simpson” accompanied a touring exhibition and includes contributions from Okwui Enwezor, Helaine Posner, Hilton Als, and Thelma Golden.

 


LORNA SIMPSON, “Cloudscape,” 2004 (video, 6 minute loop, 1 channel). | Video by Lorna Simpson

 

“The solitary image of the black male figure whistling and enveloped by fog appears to be a song of departure from the charnel house of the racial sublime. But this does not mean it will disappear completely, since race and masculinity still have social meaning.” — Okwui Enwezor

 

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