The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston (ICA) welcomes Simone Leigh's work created for the Venice Biennale, which will be on exhibit at the ICA from April 6 to September 4, 2023.
In a piece commissioned by the ICA, Leigh represented the United States at the 59th International Venice Biennale. Simone Leigh will include over 35 pieces, including nine works from the US Pavilion, essential early works that allude to the artist’s constant interest in the forms and materials of Black feminist thought, and current ceramics, bronzes, and films.
Following its debut at the ICA, the exhibition will then move to the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. from November 2023 through March 2024. The tour will conclude in a joint presentation at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and California African American Museum (CAAM), on view June 2024 through January 2025 in Los Angeles. Simone Leigh is organized by Eva Respini, ICA Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs and Barbara Lee Chief Curator, with Anni A. Pullagura, Curatorial Assistant.
The first galleries of the exhibition will feature interconnected sculptures in ceramic, bronze, and raffia developed primarily in the last five years. The show concludes with Leigh’s historic Venice presentation, allowing American viewers to witness this monumental installation. Final Garment (2022), a bronze based on a 19th-century souvenir photograph of a Jamaican laundress, finishes the show by exploring labor histories, notably the anonymous labor of African women. The ICA exhibition will include a bigger, larger reflecting pool for Last Garment, which will be stunningly located with a view of Boston Harbor.
Leigh, one of today’s most prominent artists, makes sculpture, film, installation, and social practice works that place Black femme, or female-identified, subjectivity, at the center of contemporary art conversation. Leigh’s work spans 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 in material and visual culture.
The show includes works on both a small and large scale. A selection of Leigh’s table-top ceramic busts demonstrate her mastery of the medium, with references to the Black American folk art tradition of stoneware face vessels; these citations are also repeated in larger ceramic works, which draw on vernacular traditions from the American South, Caribbean, and African continent, and challenge traditional hierarchies of art and labor.
In 2018, the artist began casting her bronze sculptural pieces for gallery exhibitions and public art commissions. Leigh’s bronzes, with their unabashedly Black feminist and aesthetic references, focus on the importance—indeed, the necessity—of understanding the agency of Black women as subjects in the cultural domain. The show will include Leigh’s gigantic 24-foot-tall bronze Satellite (2022), which will be located at the ICA’s entrance and will broadcast themes about self-determination that are central to the work.
A major scholarly monograph is forthcoming, including images of works in the exhibition, installation views from Leigh’s Venice presentation, and images of works from throughout her career, accompanies the exhibition. Serving as the first comprehensive scholarly publication on Leigh’s practice, the publication includes newly commissioned essays by over 15 leading scholars, historians, and writers; a conversation between Simone Leigh, Lorraine O’Grady, and Malik Gaines; and an introduction by Eva Respini. The catalogue is designed by Nontsikelelo Mutiti, and co-published by the ICA and DelMonico Books. The monograph will be available summer 2023.