For over two decades, Leigh has embraced a polyphonic artistic vocabulary that elaborates on Black feminist thought, an intellectual tradition which values and centers the experiences of Black women. Informed by a rigorous attention to a wide swath of historical periods, geographies, and artistic traditions of Africa and the African diaspora, Leigh often combines the female body with domestic vessels or architectural elements to point to unacknowledged acts of labor and care, particularly among and for Black women.
Clay forms the basis of most of Leigh’s artworks, including her bronze sculptures, which are first modeled in clay. The artist pushes the medium’s possibilities through scale and method, challenging conventional, hierarchical fine arts histories, which can still attach to ceramics associations around women’s labor, decoration, domestic crafts, and utility. This exhibition traces the artist’s unique visual language through signature motifs, including cowrie shells, braiding, rosettes, face vessels, and eyeless faces. Through Leigh’s re-performing of these forms in varying materials and scales, new structures of thought and meanings emerge, each consistently centering the experiences and intellectual labor of Black femmes.
Accompanied by a major monograph, this exhibition offers visitors a timely opportunity to experience the complex and profoundly moving work of this groundbreaking artist.
– Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston, April 6–September 4, 2023
– Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., November 10, 2023–March 3, 2024
– Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and California African American Museum (CAAM), June 2024–January 2025
Simone Leigh is organized by Eva Respini, Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs and Barbara Lee Chief Curator, with Anni A. Pullagura, Curatorial Assistant.