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date: 09 April 2020

American, 20th – 21st century, female.

Born 1960, in Brooklyn (New York City).

Engraver, photographer, mixed media, installation artist.

Conceptual Art, Identity Art.

Lorna Simpson studied at the University of San Diego and then at the New York School of Visual Arts. She started out as a photo-journalist and her work has retained a connection between the photograph and text. She is an African American artist who works from texts and photographs and sometimes makes sound installations. She portrays the black female body and questions the usual stereotypes, as in the series Guarded Conditions, (1989-1990). This series shows, for example, a photograph of a black woman dressed in large night shirt or cotton dress. The model is shown six times, while a text printed as a caption alternates the words 'sex attack' with the words 'skin attacks', inferring that the woman has been sexually attacked because of the colour of her skin and that the condition of the Black woman predisposes her to becoming a rape victim. In addition to the feminist idea, the photographs are also a metaphor for the condition of Black people in the USA. The economy of means, black and white photography and a simple text typed on a typewriter and stuck on, gives the work an objective coldness accentuated by the fact that the subject's back is turned away from the viewer. Affirmation of the feminine presence together with denunciation of injustices in American society are part of the approach of Afro-American artists between 1980 and 1990, all of whom took the photography in conjunction with text as their main medium. This combination also comes from Afro-American narrative tradition and here develops into a political debate.

Group Exhibitions

1984, Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin

regularly from 1987, New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York

1988, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston

1990, Venice Biennale

1991, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

1992, Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris

1993, Art Prospekt, Frankfurt

1999, Regarding Beauty: A View of the Late Twentieth Century, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington DC

2002, Documenta, Kassel

Solo Exhibitions

1989, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum, Hartford (Connecticut)

1990, Museum of Modern Art de New York, Art Museum of Denver and Portland

1991, Center for Exploratory and Perceptual Art, Buffalo

1993, Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston

1994, 2002, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

1997, Art Museum, Miami

2002, Studio Museum in Harlem, New York

2002, Centro de Arte Contemporaneo, Salamanca (travelling exhibition)

2003, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin

2005, Galerie Nathalie Obaldia, Paris

2006, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (travelling exhibition organised by the American Federation of Arts)

Museum and Gallery Holdings

La Jolla (MCA of San Diego): Guarded Conditions (1989, mixed media)

New York (Whitney Mus. of American Art)

Auction Records

New York, 11 Nov 1993: Water Carrier (photograph and acrylic/Plexiglas, installation, 54½ × 81 ins/138.4 × 205.7 cm) USD 19,550

New York, 23 Feb 1994: Untitled (1989, two black and white engravings on a polyester background framed by the artist with two plastic plaques with printed text, 43½ × 37½ ins/110.5 × 95.3 cm) USD 6,900

New York, 5 May 1994: Reading Proofs (1989, gelatine silver print photograph with plastic in four parts, 42 × 42 ins/106.7 × 106.7 cm) USD 8,050

New York, 8 May 1996: Landscape/Parts of the Body II (1992, montage of two polaroid engravings with engraved Plexiglas in a frame by the artist, 49½ × 20½ ins/125.7 × 52.1 cm) USD 5,175

New York, 17 Feb 1999: The Bed (1995, serigraph on felt, in four parts, 35 × 22 ins/89 × 56 cm) USD 9,000

New York, 18 Nov 1999: Haze (1998, serigraph on felt, in eight parts, 68 × 69 ins/173 × 175 cm) USD 8,500

New York, 17 Nov 2000: Car (serigraph on felt with text panel, 102 × 104 ins/259 × 264 cm) USD 8,000

New York, 15 May 2001: Untitled - Tondos and Words (two photographs and eleven plastic plaques, 38 × 90 ins/96 × 229 cm) USD 8,000

New York, 18 May 2001: 1978-88 (four photographs and thirteen engraved plastic plaques, 48 × 67 ins/123 × 170 cm) USD 9,000

New York, 26 Sept 2002: Haze (1998, serigraph, six panels, 68 × 69 ins/173 × 175 cm) USD 5,500

New York, 12 Nov 2003: Bed (1995, acrylic on felt, four panels, 35 × 20 ins/90 × 51 cm) USD 4,800

New York, 13 May 2004: Myths (1991, photographs, four parts, 43 × 137 ins/109 × 347 cm) USD 13,000


  • Jones, Kellie: Lorna Simpson, Phaidon, London, 2002.
  • Enwezor, Okwui, et al.: Lorna Simpson, exhibition catalogue, Harry N. Abrams, New York, 2006 (published to coincide with an exhibition organised by the American Federation of Arts).