Earth & Sky

Lorna Simpson American

Not on view

Throughout Simpson’s practice the language of hairstyle has played an important role. For the artist, "hair is a cipher of identity" and exploring its centrality to African American culture informed another query for Simpson: "I had questions about representation and what we learn about the subject." In recent years the artist has used images from 1960s and 70s advertisements in historical copies of Ebony and Jet, the monthlies she grew up reading and that informed her "sense of thinking about being black in America." In the early 2010s, she first juxtaposed these decoupaged heads with swirls of ink to replace their missing hairdos, then, for the series to which the present collage belongs, Earth & Sky, she interleaved found pages from a mineralogical encyclopedia. Here, a page on malachite is conjoined with a 1964 advertisement for the hair and scalp conditioner Raveen (one can almost make out the tagline "Raveen for lovelier hair" as it scrolls below the portrait). As Elizabeth Alexander’s recent prose poem on Simpson’s collages eloquently states, "Black women are everywhere glorious and unsung. / The black woman is elemental, of the earth, magma, and gem, ‘malachite and azurite.’"

Earth & Sky, Lorna Simpson (American, born Brooklyn, New York, 1960), Cut and pasted printed papers

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