Lorna Simpson American

Not on view

In 1994 the grassroots organization ACT UP (AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power) commissioned seven artists to create works for a limited-edition art box as a fund-raising initiative. The box contained six small sculptures (by Ross Bleckner, Louise Bourgeois, Mike Kelley, Simon Leung, Kiki Smith, and Lorna Simpson) with the seventh work (by Nancy Spero) printed on the lid. Simpson contributed two glass sculptures of a furcula, the forked bone in the breast of a bird. She sandblasted one wishbone, rendering it translucent, and flame-molded the other, leaving it transparent. Such different treatments of the glass poetically reference the body in its fragility and its resilience. Easily fractured but materially strong, they symbolize a sense of hope and fulfillment.

Simpson uses conceptual approaches to question the ways in which images convey meaning. Her striking juxtapositions of text and staged photographs, like her iconic cropped shots of African American women accompanied by captions, confront conventional understandings of gender, identity, race, and historical memory. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, at the height of the AIDS epidemic, Simpson created several new works to benefit AIDS activist organizations, utilizing her aesthetic language to highlight the disproportionate risks faced by Black women and communities of color in contracting the virus and experiencing barriers to treatment.

Untitled, Lorna Simpson (American, born Brooklyn, New York, 1960), Glass and printed paper

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