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First Mid-Career Survey of the Work of Lorna Simpson on View at the Gibbes Museum of Art

Organized by the American Federation of Arts, Lorna Simpson challenges traditional views of gender, identity, culture, history and memory

(Charleston, SC) – The first mid-career survey of the work of Lorna Simpson will be on view at the Gibbes Museum of Art September 7 – December 2, 2007. Organized by the American Federation of Arts and curated by AFA Adjunct Curator Helaine Posner, this exhibition presents a comprehensive examination of the artistic production of one of the leading artists working in the United States today. The Gibbes Museum of Art is the last stop for this exhibition after a national tour that included such venues as the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.

AFA Director Julia Brown remarked, “It is a privilege to celebrate the work of Lorna Simpson over the last two decades, beginning with her earliest photograph and text works and ending with her film and video installations of the last few years and most recent photographs. We are delighted to present this beautiful and provocative body of work to a broad national audience.”

“This is a rare opportunity for the Gibbes to host an exhibition of this caliber from one of the most important artists of our generation. For over a century, the museum has been in the forefront of supporting contemporary art that challenges existing notions of identity” according to Gibbes Executive Director Todd Smith. This is the second time that the Gibbes has worked with Lorna Simpson having previously partnered with Spoleto Festival USA on the 1991 exhibition Places with a Past. Ms. Simpson created a site-specific installation at the Governor Bennett House that examined issues of identity among the African-American community and generated considerable interest in Charleston and among museum visitors.

Lorna Simpson first became well known in the mid-1980s for examining racial and gender identity with large-scale photograph and text works that are formally elegant and subtly provocative. The artist often focused on the black female figure, shown either faceless or with her back turned, to comment on the social anonymity of the black female and, at the same time, make her the central subject. By the mid-90s, Simpson began to concentrate on creating large multi-panel photographs printed on felt. The softly sensual images depict urban locales as the site of public, yet unseen, couplings. More recently, the artist has turned to creating moving images. In film and video works such as Call Waiting, she features people of color engaging in intimate yet incomplete conversations that elude easy interpretation but seem to plumb the mysteries of identity and desire.

Selected by AFA Adjunct Curator Helaine Posner, the important exhibition will be the first mid-career survey of Simpson’s work to date and provides a comprehensive examination of her photographs and films. It will include approximately twelve of her acclaimed image and text works (1985-92); seven major works on felt (1994-98); five film installations from 1997 to 2003 such as Interior/Exterior, Full/Empty, a seven-part projection; and 31, a video work. The exhibition will conclude with the artist’s recent photographs (2001-03) depicting profiles of black women and men accompanied by the titles of paintings, songs and films relating to black culture.

This exhibition is made possible, in part, by grants from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the Peter Norton Family Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Lily Auchincloss Foundation, Inc., the Martin Bucksbaum Family Foundation, Emily Fisher Landau, and The Barbara Lee Family Foundation Fund at the Boston Foundation. Local sponsors of the exhibition include Gibbes, etc., Wachovia Foundation and the Post and Courier Foundation.


The AFA is a nonprofit institution that organizes art exhibitions for presentation in museums around the world, publishes exhibition catalogues, and develops education programs. For more information on the AFA, please visit

Established as the Carolina Art Association in 1858, the Gibbes Museum of Art opened its doors to the public in 1905 in historic Charleston, S.C. The Gibbes houses one of the foremost collections of American Art from the 18th century to the present. The Gibbes is currently undergoing major renovations and will reopen in the spring of 2016. The renovated museum will properly showcase its extensive collections and will feature an admission-free ground floor, providing a place to watch artists at work in studios and stroll through a world-class garden.

135 Meeting Street | Charleston, SC | 29401