9 Props

Lorna Simpson American

Not on view

In 9 Props Simpson challenges preconceived notions about what constitutes a portrait. Rather than depicting actual people, she photographs nine surrogates—vases and bowls that are based on objects in the portraits taken by famed Harlem photographer James VanDerZee in the 1920s, 30s, and 80s. Working with the artisans at Pilchuck Glass School in Seattle, where she was an artist-in-residence, Simpson had the photograph vessels replicated in black glass. Her captions below each "prop" describe the people, clothing, and furnishings in VanDerZee's original photographs. Unlike VanDerZee's pictures, however, which seem tied to a particular time and place, Simpson's conceptual portraits are enigmatic and open-ended, relying on the incongruity of her words and images to suggest meaning and context, but without providing obvious answers.

9 Props, Lorna Simpson (American, born Brooklyn, New York, 1960), Waterless lithograph on wool felt panel

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