|, 1993, leather, metallic gold thread, satin, laces, nail hanging; 35” x 15” x 6”. Edition of 20. COURTESY OF THE ARTIST AND METRO PICTURES., Everforward. . .|
Text | Noah Becker
Gary Simmons makes site-specific drawings, installation pieces, and various forms inspired by such things as television, memory, iconography, presence, absence, and the politics of race on a global level. Simmons expresses more universal social issues through the influence of hip-hop, specifically a reverence for the legendary group Public Enemy. In an interview with Okwui Enwezor, Simmons said that his aim is to “integrate the theoretical with the beautiful to create stunning objects.” Simmons accomplishes this goal, and in his recent project based on the political implications of boxing, goes beyond it. It is the artist’s job to present something beyond the spectacle, to uncover the layers of dialogue beneath the headlines.
NOAH BECKER: The work that you have done, and the work that you continue to do comes out of your ethnicity. At what point did you start to see your work as something that could express social issues?
GARY SIMMONS: Early on. I went to school for visual arts in the ’80s. At that time I studied with a lot of minimalists, also a lot of conceptualists, Joseph Kosuth was there and Jack Whitten. There were a number of people and different types of work. I was also looking at a lot of minimalist work, and I was really trying to find a voice of my own. You know minimalism was very much about aesthetics and form, as was conceptualism, and it was really hard for me to find my voice in there. In terms of finding it, everything kind of came together in a perfect storm sort of way. I was heavily into the music scene at the time; there was a lot of politically driven music going on from punk rock, to heavy hip-hop. Bands like Public Enemy and Boogie Down Productions, these guys were very outspoken. For me it was like forging the two. As I started to move through the work, I started to play with fragmentation, taking certain objects or signifiers out of my work, and making it more my own.
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