|Simone Leigh and Chitra Ganesh, Girl, video still from my dreams, my works, must wait till after hell, 2012, TRT 7 minutes, 14 seconds. Image via thecontemporary.org.|
Curated by Stuart Horodner
April 4 – May 31, 2014
Artist talk: Saturday, April 5, 2014, 11:00am
535 Means Street NW
Atlanta Contemporary Art Center (ACAC) is excited to present the first major solo exhibition of artist Simone Leigh in the context of the South. Leigh’s works are known for their intense physicality, and the New York-based artist is extremely adept at forming and firing ceramics to create singular objects and assemblages that range from the ornamental to the ominous. She consistently investigates the female body as a repository of lived experiences: pleasure and pain, motherhood, and various contributions to domestic life and cultural agency. Gone South combines previously exhibited site-specific installations and performance-based video alongside new sculptures that take advantage of the proportions of our galleries.
Function is a fascinating subject for the artist, and this exhibition reveals ways in which she combines hand-made objects with store-bought items to examine labor and daily rituals in both American and African contexts. Works in various scale create dynamic spatial relationships: a metal structure covered with accumulated bottles sits on the floor, informed by vernacular architecture as well as the cotillion, a social dance originating in France in the 18th century and further developed by African Americans in the United States; and a chandelier of oversized cowrie shells hangs dramatically within a large and site-specific yurt-like structure. These shells, with their beautifully textured surfaces and jagged openings, operate as disembodied and clustered fragments, shifting between art and craft, decoration and devastation. Leigh’s videos claim women from science fiction fare in film and television, including Zira from Planet of the Apes, and Lieutenant Uhura, the communications officer from Star Trek, using them as models of identity and power.
The video, Untitled #1, 2012, from the series my works, my dreams, must wait till after hell, is presented to establish a dialogue with the sculptures on view. This work, made with artist Chitra Ganesh as the collaboration Girl, features the torso of a dark-skinned, nude woman lying on her side; her head is buried under a pile of rocks, and her body moves slowly as she breathes. By presenting her back to the audience, this figure denies a recognizable self, and seems committed to suffering in anonymity and silence. The psychological/sexual energy of the works in Gone South helps to locate Leigh in a continuum of fierce female predecessors and peers, including Louise Bourgeois, Nancy Spero, Kiki Smith, and Janine Antoni. They all produce art that draws its power from a combination of art history, folk tales, Surrealist strategies, and a dedication to craft traditions.
Simone Leigh has exhibited work at Sculpture Center and the Kitchen in New York City; the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston; the Fowler Museum at UCLA in Los Angeles; the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh; the Kunsthalle Wien in Vienna; L’appartement 22 in Rabbat, Morocco; and the AVA gallery in Cape town, South Africa. She has been artist-in-residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem and Hunter College, and has received grants from Creative Capital, Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation, Joan Mitchell Foundation, Bronx Museum Artist in the Marketplace, Art Matters Foundation, and the New York Foundation for the Arts. Her work is written about frequently, including features in Modern Painters, the New York Times, Nka Journal of Contemporary African Art, and the forthcoming Spring 2014 issue of BOMB.