Born in Chicago to Jamaican parents, Simone Leigh is a world-renowned multidisciplinary artist who is well known for her breathtaking bronze sculptures (such as “Brick House,” at High Line in New York)—veritable monuments to black women around the world—as well as her works in ceramic and video. Her survey at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (Smithsonian) opened on November 3, 2023, and will be on view until March 3, 2024.
[This survey traveled from ICA Boston where it was organized by Eva Respini, formerly Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs and Barbara Lee, Chief Curator with Anni A. Pullaguru, Assistant Curator. The exhibition will next travel as a joint presentation to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and California African American Museum (CAAM) in Los Angeles (June 2024-January 2025).]
Simone Leigh (b. 1967, Chicago) represented the United States at the 2022 Venice Biennale, one of the largest and most important contemporary art exhibitions in the world. Selections from Leigh’s landmark Venice presentation are making their U.S. premiere in Boston, joined by key works from throughout her career, providing a holistic understanding of the artist’s production in ceramic, bronze, and video.
For over two decades, Leigh has embraced a polyphonic artistic vocabulary that elaborates on Black feminist thought, an intellectual tradition which values and centers the experiences of Black women. Informed by a rigorous attention to a wide swath of historical periods, geographies, and artistic traditions of Africa and the African diaspora, Leigh often combines the female body with domestic vessels or architectural elements to point to unacknowledged acts of labor and care, particularly among and for Black women. For her presentation at the Hirshhorn, the artist will include three new bronze sculptures, “Bisi”, “Herm” and “One Foot” (2023) within the galleries. Leigh’s monumental bronze, “Satellite” (2022) which stood sentry outside the U.S. Pavilion in Venice, has been installed at the entrance to the Hirshhorn on the southern plaza to signal the exhibition’s arrival.
Clay forms the basis of most of Leigh’s artworks, including her bronze sculptures, which are first modeled in clay. The artist pushes the medium’s possibilities through scale and method, challenging conventional, hierarchical fine arts histories, which can still attach to ceramics associations around women’s labor, decoration, domestic crafts, and utility. This exhibition traces the artist’s unique visual language through signature motifs, including cowrie shells, braiding, rosettes, face vessels, and eyeless faces. Through Leigh’s re-performing of these forms in varying materials and scales, new structures of thought and meanings emerge, each consistently centering the experiences and intellectual labor of Black femmes.
Accompanied by a major monograph, this exhibition offers visitors a timely opportunity to experience the complex and profoundly moving work of this groundbreaking artist.
For more information and photo gallery, see https://hirshhorn.si.edu/exhibitions/simone-leigh/