Curator Joan Simon talks about the show

Following a critically acclaimed opening in Paris at the Jeu de Paume (May 28-Sept. 1, 2013), the Lorna Simpson exhibition  has merited Simpson’s selection as a finalist for the Deutsche Börse Photography prize 2014. The Jeu de Paume show received extensive press coverage in print and blogs as well as radio and television media and was accompanied by prominent posters in the métro featuring images from Simpson’s video installation Chess (2013). With the generous sponsorship of the Terra Foundation, the Jeu de Paume hosted a series of roundtables with scholars, artists, catalogue contributors, and the show’s curator. In October 2013 Lorna Simpson began its tour at Munich’s Haus der Kunst (Oct. 25, 2013-Feb. 2, 2014).  

This touring version of the show is larger than the Jeu de Paume installation. It includes all of the works exhibited there while also featuring a new large-scale dual screen projection of Simpson’s video Momentum (2010), twenty five collages created with images published in Ebony magazine amplified with ink drawing by the artist (2013), and the photo/sculpture combine Players (2013), all of which demonstrate Simpson’s use of found images to explore new forms of gestures and re-enactments, the underlying theme and formal strategy of Simpson’s work since the 1980’s.

Building on her  practice of recuperating vintage photographs purchased on eBay – such as inexpensive photo booth shots (presented in bronze frames, like the related drawings of details of  Gather, 2008, and Please remind me of who I am, 2009) as well as an album of staged images of an anonymous woman and man taken in Los Angeles in 1957 for her epic 1957-2009 (2009) (constituted of 298 photographs and in which Simpson performs in her work for the first time to re-enact both female and male poses seen in poses of  the original images that are also part of the work) – Simpson continues to collect vintage photographs and to use them in new ways.

The source images for Players (2013) came from a Baltimore newspaper archive. Simpson purchased many 8 x 10 glossies, photographs that bore crop marks and scale indications and, at times, handwriting of additional instructions for the analog process of newspaper publishing that existed from the 1940’s to the early 1980’s. Simpson reproduced the original images of these “found” photographs of basketball players by slightly enlarging the images via a digital archival pigment process. The digital prints were further enhanced with Simpson’s hand-painted details to replicate the surface of marks that appear on the originals, where china marker and gouache were used to indicate crop marks and silhouettes. This alteration by the artist mimics the contrast between hand-painted indications and the surface of the originals’ photographic paper. 

Simpson’s installation pairs each of her newly made aluminum-framed photographs with a sculptural aluminum form that isolates and abstracts the basketball (or basketballs) seen in each photograph. The specific three-dimensional orb is translated to a concave shape positioned within the overall gray field of each aluminum box. The photographs are presented right-side up, upside-down, and horizontally, oftentimes contrary to the way they were published, as are their corresponding aluminum boxes.