Lorna Simpson (born 1960) is an African-American photographer and multimedia artist who made her name in the 1980s and 1990s with artworks such as Guarded Conditions and Square Deal. She is one of the leading artists of her generation, and her works have been included in numerous exhibitions both nationally and internationally. She is best known for her photo-text installations, photocollages, and films.
‘Unanswerable’, Lorna Simpson’s inaugural exhibition at Hauser & Wirth London, featuring new paintings, photographic collage and sculpture, was on view 1 March – 28 April 2018.
Simpson’s work often portrays black women combined with text to express contemporary society’s relationship with race, ethnicity and sex. In many of her works, the subjects are black women with obscured faces, causing a denial of gaze and the interaction associated with visual exchange. Through repetitive use of the same portrait combined with graphic text, her “anti-portraits” have a sense of scientific classification, addressing the cultural associations of black bodies.
Simpson first came to prominence in the 1980s for her large-scale works that combined photography and text and defied traditional conceptions of sex, identity, race, culture, history, and memory. Drawing on this work, she started to create large photos printed on felt that showed public but unnoticed sexual encounters. Recently, Simpson has experimented with film as well as continuing to work with photography.
Stereo Styles by Lorna Simpson consists of ten instant film pictures placed on engraved plastic. This piece was created in 1988 and is currently located in a private collection. The ten individual images focus exclusively on the back of a young black woman’s head. Each image, all shot in black and white, shows the young woman modeling different hairstyles that would have been popular in the era. Accompanying these ten photos is ten descriptive words placed on a thin black strip, written in white cursive that read: ‘Daring,’ ‘Sensible,’ ‘Severe,’ ‘Long and Silky,’ ‘Boyish,’ ‘Ageless,’ ‘Silly, ‘Magnetic,’ ‘Country Fresh,’ and ‘Sweet.’ Simpson has added more depth and emotion to this piece by creating a drop shadow under each individual photograph.