Simone Leigh exhibition at Hirshhorn Museum

The Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden presents “Simone Leigh” from November 3, 2023, through March 3, 2024, bringing the first museum survey of the acclaimed artist’s artworks before a national audience in Washington, D.C.

Leigh represented the United States at the 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, through a commission by the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston (ICA). Curated in tandem to that landmark presentation, the exhibition “Simone Leigh” will showcase works from Leigh’s Venice exhibition alongside three new bronze sculptures, which will be shown for the first time at the Hirshhorn. Leigh’s full-floor installation will also feature key early works and video to demonstrate her consistent and careful attention to the creative and critical labor of Black women across almost 20 years of highly disciplined practice.

“We are honored to collaborate with Simone Leigh on this exhibition, which offers a point-of-view that expands beyond our founding tradition—with modernist sculpture central to Joseph Hirshhorn’s collection and the basis for this Museum—with her singular and necessary perspective,” Melissa Chiu, Hirshhorn director, said.

Over the past two decades, Leigh has created works of art that situate questions of Black femme, or female-identified, subjectivity at the center of contemporary art discourse. Her sculpture, video, installation, and social practice explore ideas of race, beauty and community in visual and material culture. Leigh’s art addresses a wide swath of historical periods, geographies and traditions, with specific references to vernacular and hand-made processes from across the African diaspora, as well as forms traditionally associated with African art and ritual, all while mining historical gaps, inaccuracies and fallacies.

“Simone Leigh” will feature sculpture in an array of Leigh’s material vocabulary, including ceramic, bronze, and raffia. Leigh’s attention to the Black female form over time and in various materials underlines her consistent vision.

A selection of her table-top ceramics will accentuate her fluency in the medium, including references to the Black American folk and self-taught art traditions of stoneware face vessels—citations that are present in her large ceramic works, which draw on the vernacular traditions of the American South, Caribbean and African continent, and challenge traditional hierarchies of art and labor. These works, at both intimate and large scale, reference domestic vessels such as bowls and jugs merged with explorations of the body.

For the Hirshhorn’s presentation, the artist will introduce three recent sculptures: “Bisi” (2023), “Herm” (2023) and “Vessel” (2023).

Prior to the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, a version of this traveling exhibition was presented at the ICA/Boston. The tour will conclude in a joint presentation at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and California African American Museum from June 2024 through January 2025.

About Simone Leigh

Simone Leigh’s (b. Chicago, 1967) works in sculpture, video, and installation—all are informed by her ongoing exploration of the experiences of Black femmes. Her work traverses across time, geography, and cultures, and her objects often employ materials and forms traditionally associated with African art and vernacular traditions across the African Diaspora.

Leigh’s monumental sculpture “Brick House” was installed on the High Line Plinth, New York from 2019 to 2021. She received the prestigious Hugo Boss Prize in 2018 and has been the subject of solo exhibitions at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2019); Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2016); Studio Museum in Harlem in Marcus Garvey Park, New York (2016); Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas (with Chitra Ganesh, 2016); the New Museum, New York (2016); Creative Time and Weeksville Heritage Center, Brooklyn (2014); and The Kitchen, New York (2014).

Her work is in the collections of The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York and The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; The Art Institute of Chicago; and the ICA/Boston, among others.

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