Artist Simone Leigh Gets a Solo Exhibition at the 2022 Venice Biennale – Robb Report
The United States Pavilion in the Giardini di Castello, home of the Venice Biennale, was erected in 1930, as fascism rose in Europe and Jim Crow laws codified white supremacy in much of the United States . When the 59th edition of the quintessential international art exhibition opens this month, Simone Leigh will be the first black woman to be tasked with a solo presentation in this space, designed to showcase the best of America. The art world can’t wait.
Leigh is acclaimed for her towering figures of black women, usually sculpted in ceramic and wrapped in voluminous raffia skirts, with references ranging from Velásquez The Meninas to traditional African dwellings and Mammy’s Cupboard, a restaurant in Mississippi that could be described as blackface architecture: customers eat inside the giant brick skirt of “Aunt Jemima”. Often devoid of eyes and ears, Leigh’s women seem impervious to such racism or the vestiges of colonialism.
“If one spends a lot of time thinking about historical precedents, absences, emergencies, stories told and untold, there are layers and layers of depth to be probed in Simone Leigh’s work that are critically important,” says Jill Medvedow, director of the Institute. of Contemporary Art Boston, which proposed and organized the American entry.
Leigh’s highly anticipated show will include ceramics as well as bronzes, which were cast from her life-size models – an unusual and labor-intensive approach. But again, a theme of her work is the recognition of the historically unrecognized work of black women. “You see and feel the touch of her hand on every piece,” says Medvedow, who describes Leigh as “an artist at the peak of her power” and adds that the show’s title, Simone Leigh: Sovereignty, “just dab it with these themes of self-determination, both individual and collective.”
Medvedow says you don’t have to be an expert to be captivated by Leigh’s sculpture. “The power, the scale, the materials – the beauty – are equally compelling,” she notes. “I think his work will grab and speak to that broad audience.