Simone Leigh has sculpted her way into the history books as the first African-American woman artist to be chosen to represent the U.S. at the Venice Biennale. Her work is renowned for creating artworks that transcend race and gender and give them a voice. The State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art announced this Wednesday 14 October.
I’m so looking forward to a respite from this climate we are living through – SL
Simone Leigh (born 1967) is from Chicago and works in New York City. Her practice in various media includes sculpture, installations, video, performance, and social practice. Leigh has described her work as auto-ethnographic, and her interests include African art and vernacular objects, performance, and feminism. Her work is concerned with the marginalisation of women of colour and reframes their experience as central to society. Leigh has often said that her work is focused on “Black female subjectivity,” with interest in complex interplays between various strands of history.
The Chicago native will create a new series of sculptures for the U.S. pavilion at the 59th Biennale to be held in 2022, said the Boston museum, which is organising a major exhibition of Leigh’s work to be displayed in 2023.
Simone Leigh originally was to appear at next year’s Biennale, but the coronavirus pandemic prompted organisers to delay the 2021 edition by a year, Institute of Contemporary Art spokesperson Margaux Leonard said,
“At such a crucial moment in history, I can think of no better artist to represent the United States,” ICA director Jill Medvedow said in a statement.
“Over the course of two decades, Simone Leigh has created an indelible body of work that centres the experiences and histories of Black women,” she said, calling Leigh’s work “probing, timely and urgent.”
Founded in 1895, the every-other-year Biennale has become a leading venue for artists worldwide to call attention to war, racism, poverty, human trafficking and other issues preoccupying the planet.
Eva Respini, the ICA’s chief curator, said Leigh’s sculptures for the Biennale would highlight Black feminist thought, include works inspired by leading Black intellectuals and serve as “a beacon in our moment.”
Simone Leigh, 53, is known for edgy, bold forms that draw from themes in African art. “Brick House,” her towering 16-foot-tall (5-meter-tall) bronze bust of a Black woman with braids, is currently installed on Manhattan’s elevated High Line greenway.