Comments/Context: The three works in Lorna Simpson's new show at the Brooklyn Museum all turn on the idea of cultural memory, of how past and present are often collapsed together and how our history is fully intertwined with our contemporary lives. It's a powerful, sometimes haunting display that explores the universal nature of the passing of time, via its specific embodiment in the African-American experience.
The second piece brings together faded and wrinkled photo booth portraits, washes of dark ink, and rectangles of bronze into a complex meditation on the nature of memory. Anonymous faces stare out from the photographs, offering tantalizing clues to lost personal stories (who were these people and what happened to them?). As time passes, these individuals alternately fade and darken, becoming abstract blots of dark ink, eventually transforming themselves into mute blocks of cool bronze. Taken together, the installation seems to document the subtle process of forgetting, where the lives and accomplishments of those who came before us slowly disappear; as more and more specific faces become unknown blocks, it becomes harder and harder to recreate our collective history.
The video installation comes at the idea of memory from a different direction. 15 mouths hum the tune to the 1935 Rogers and Hart classic It's Easy to Remember. The catchy melody will be instantly familiar to most, but the humming removes the actual lyrics, leaving behind a ghost of the song itself. Once again, Simpson has given us a fragmented shard of history, and then opened it up for a broad array of possible interpretations. I left the museum with the tune still stuck in my head, almost like a spooky undefined anthem.
Collector's POV: Since this is a museum show, the works on view are obviously not for sale. Simpson's photographs have only been intermittently available in the secondary markets in recent years, with prices ranging between roughly $1000 and $25000. As such, gallery retail is likely a better option for interested collectors at this point. The artist is represented by Salon 94 in New York (here).
Rating: ** (two stars) VERY GOOD (rating system described here)
- Artist site (here)
- Reviews: La Lettre de la Photographie (here), Snapshots (here), New Yorker (here), Brooklyn Paper (here)
Through August 21st
200 Eastern Parkway
Brooklyn, NY 11238