A NEW WEBSITE provides a preview of Simone Leigh‘s forthcoming exhibition at the 56th Venice Biennale in 2022. Leigh is the first Black female artist to represent the United States with a solo show in the U.S. Pavilion at the international exhibition. Commissioned by the Institute of Contemporary Art Boston in cooperation with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the presentation will be on view April 23-Nov. 27, 2022.

Leigh’s longstanding sculptural practice blends figuration, abstraction, and architectural forms, centering Black female subjectivity. She is creating a new series of ceramic and bronze figurative sculptures for the Venice exhibition.

 


Simone Leigh, 2021. | Artworks © Simone Leigh. Courtesy the artist, Photo by Shaniqwa Jarvis

 

The website provides biographical information about Leigh, who was born in Chicago, has Jamaican roots, and lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. There is an overview of the Biennale, the commissioners and funders, and partnerships with Spelman College and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, offering seminars to college students in Atlanta and professional development opportunities for middle- and high school teachers in Venice, respectively. A video of the artist in her studio making new works for the Biennale is the key feature of the website.

Voiceovers from curators and scholars provide insights about the symbolism and significance of her work. ICA Director Jill Medvedow; ICA Chief Curator Eva Respini; Rashida Bumbray, director of culture and art at Open Society Foundations; and Michael Thiedeman, professor emeritus of the art department at Earlham College, Leigh’s alma mater in Richmond, Ind., contributed to the video, which was filmed by Shaniqwa Jarvis.

“Simone has persevered because she has an assumption that she would. She knew that she would,” Bumbray said in the video. “Her focus on Black women’s subjectivity and really Black women’s interior lives is connected to a historical continuum that incorporates architecture and incorporates the ancient and I think that’s one of the things that makes her work connected to Black women as the first audience.”

“Her focus on Black women’s subjectivity and really Black women’s interior lives is connected to a historical continuum that incorporates architecture and incorporates the ancient and I think that’s one of the things that makes her work connected to Black women as the first audience.”
— Rashida Bumbray

Four African American artists have previously represented the United States at the Venice Biennale—Robert Coloescott (1997), Fred Wilson (2003), Mark Bradford (2017), and Martin Puryear (2019). Following the selections of Bradford and Puryear, Leigh is the third African American artist in a row to present a solo show in the U.S. Pavilion.

After joining Hauser & Wirth at the end of 2019, Leigh announced her departure from the mega gallery last week. The timing of her exit was out of the ordinary given her forthcoming, high-profile turn on the international stage at the Venice Biennale. In addition, her first solo exhibition with Hauser & Wirth is currently on view in Zurich through Dec. 4.

“I love and respect the people I worked with at Hauser & Wirth. But I do not feel the gallery is the right fit for me in the wider sense. I’m still figuring out what I want from a primary gallery relationship,” Leigh said in a statement provided by Hauser & Wirth.

Following the Venice exhibition, Leigh’s first full-scale museum survey show will be on view at ICA Boston and will feature works from the Biennale. The exhibition will subsequently tour two additional venues and be accompanied by the first major monograph dedicated to the artist’s work.

Speaking about Leigh’s oeuvre in the video, Respini calls the work essential and monumental and emphasizes that it “makes us reconsider power, visibility, and representation.” CT

 

BOOKSHELF
A new monograph will accompany Simone Leigh’s survey organized by ICA Boston. Leigh is included in “The Hugo Boss Prize 2018,” and “For Her Own Pleasure and Edification,” an essay by Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts was distributed in newspaper format at the Guggenheim exhibition. The recently published volume “A Black Gaze: Artists Changing How We See” by Tina M. Campt and “Fired Up! Ready to Go!: Finding Beauty, Demanding Equity: An African American Life in Art. The Collections of Peggy Cooper Cafritz,” both feature Leigh. Cafritz was an early collector of Leigh’s work. The catalogs “Martin Puryear: Liberty / Libertà,” “Mark Bradford: Tomorrow Is Another Day,” and “Fred Wilson: Speak Of Me As I Am: 50th Venice Biennale” were published to document the artists’s Venice Biennale presentations in the American Pavilion. Also consider, “Art and Race Matters: The Career of Robert Colescott,” which accompanies Colescott’s current traveling exhibition.

 

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