We were thrilled to read the news this week that Simone Leigh has been selected to represent the United states at the 2022 Venice Biennale. Leigh is a perfect example of an artist who has worked consistently, persistently and passionately on her art, and therefore the perfect artist to dive a little deeper into today.
Leigh’s work, self described as Auto-ethnographic, is grounded in the exploration of the Black female experience; looking at the marginalization of Black women, woven between historical and current lived events. Her selection has marked a noticeable and necessary shift in the art world finally beginning to give the recognition deserved to Black artists. Leigh, following Martin Puryear, 2019 and Mark Bradford, 2017, is the first woman, but third in a row of Black artists to be selected to represent the United States at the Venice Biennale.
Let’s have a quick look at the evolution of her career over the last 15 years.
In 2009: Leigh had a Solo show, “Queen Bee” at G-Fine Art and was featured in a number of group shows; including “30 seconds off an inch” at The Studio Museum in Harlem.
In 2014: She was included in the Dak’Art 2014 – 11ème Biennale de l’Art Africain Contemporain in Senegal, and back in New york, a prominent piece of hers ”Free Peoples Medical Clinic” was included as part of “Funk, God, Jazz and Medicine: Black Radical Brooklyn” organised by Creative Time. In this installation Leigh turned the brownstone building formerly owned by Dr Josephine English (The first Black woman to open her own private practice in New York) into a walk-in health center modeled on those founded by the Black Panthers in the 1960’s.
In 2019: A solo show, “Loophole of Retreat” at the New York Guggenheim was a component of the prestigious Hugo Boss Prize she was awarded in 2018. Leigh was also featured in the 2019 Whitney Biennial, where she was lauded by curators as being among “the most important and relevant work”.
In addition to this Leigh was also represented at the Basel 2019 Art Basel. Since April 2019, New Yorkers would have also encountered her stunning gigantic bronze statue “Brick House” on the High Line, Leigh having won the inaugural High Line Plinth Commission.
When looking at Leigh’s Biography, and her Trends graph, it is so clear to see the consistency and unbending approach to her work. This is an artist who knows who she is, and what she’s doing. There is such an unbending power and presence in her elegant pieces that demands attention. Her selection is timely, deserved, and needed now. We can’t wait to see what the exhibition in 2022 brings.