Hammer Projects: Simone Leigh
The Brooklyn based multidisciplinary artist will exhibit a recent body of work at the Hammer, her first solo museum exhibition in Los Angeles.
Working across ceramics, sculpture, video, installation, and social practice, Simone Leigh examines the construction of black female subjectivity and economies of self-preservation and exchange. Her practice is largely research based and intersectional, and considers a range of sources, including ethnography, feminist discourse, folklore, and histories of political resistance.
Through ceramics, Leigh references vernacular visual traditions from the Caribbean, the American South, and the African continent, as well as the black diasporic experience dating from the Middle Passage to the present. Vessels, cowrie shells, and busts are reoccurring forms, each making symbolic reference to the black body. Each object is heavily decorated, either with pin drops of glaze or clusters of flowers covering the head or face. The repetition of shapes allows Leigh to have a sustained, temporal engagement with the formal—and gendered—history of ceramics and the cultural histories each object represents. Architecture becomes another extension of the body for Leigh; often cages constructed of steel that become either the armature for another layer of cover, or are left bare. These womb-like structures allude to sub-Saharan grass huts and rural meeting places, often built by women.
Concealment and visibility are also central to Leigh’s work, pointing to historical instances where people, especially women of color, operated in secret in order to build communities and organize against oppression. Her recent projects, such as The Free People’s Medical Clinic (2014) and The Waiting Room (2016) locate social practice within institutions that are geared towards underserved communities. Inspired by the outreach work of the Black Panther Party focused on literacy, poverty, and hunger, and radical self-care initiatives rooted in non-traditional health practices, such as herbalism, meditation, acupuncture, and yoga, these free workshops empower visitors to take back the care of their bodies from agents of capitalism.
For her first solo museum exhibition in Los Angeles, Leigh presents a selection of recent ceramics and a site-specific installation, as well as a public program related to her ongoing research and work in public engagement.
Hammer Projects: Simone Leigh is organized by Hammer Museum assistant curator Jamillah James.
Simone Leigh is a multidisiciplinary artist based in New York. She received a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship and Herb Alpert Award in the Arts in 2016. She has also received grants and awards from A Blade of Grass, the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation, Creative Capital, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Joan Mitchell Foundation, Art Matters, and New York Foundation for the Arts. She was an artist-in-residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 2011, and participated in the Bronx Museum’s Artist in the Marketplace (AIM) program in 2009. She was a facilitator of the 2012 International Art Programme at the Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos, and the Àsìkò School, Dakar. Selected recent and upcoming exhibitions include The Waiting Room, New Museum, New York; Greater New York 2015, MoMA/PS1, Long Island City, New York; The Free People’s Medical Clinic, Creative Time, New York; I ran to the rock to hide my face the rock cried out no hiding place, Kansas City Art Institute; Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (traveled to The Studio Museum in Harlem, Grey Art Gallery at NYU, and Walker Art Center); Gone South, Atlanta Contemporary Art Center; and You Don’t Know Where Her Mouth Has Been, The Kitchen, New York. Her work has been featured in Bomb, Modern Painters, The New Yorker, The New York Times, Small AxE, Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art, and Artforum. She is represented by Luhring Augustine, New York.