Simone Leigh's Majestic and Towering Black Female Figures
Simone Leigh’s latest solo exhibition at Luhring Augustine Gallery is the visual convergence of several sociocultural perspectives: Womanhood, Black feminism, theories of intersectionality, her connection to the African Diaspora and many more. Leigh conveys these concepts through her use of simply-put, elegant ceramic based forms that recount cultural histories and archetypal narratives surrounding Black feminism and the Black woman’s experience.
Aesthetically, her works conflate abstracted faces and heads with vessels and jugs of various kinds. In doing so, she draws upon popular African diasporic folklore about the significance of drinking gourds, jugs and vessels. The exhibition also features several stoneware works that draw upon architectural structures, such as hut-like forms.
In some pieces, Leigh pairs ceramic busts and torsos with larger-than-life skirts of raffia grass over steel base frames that resemble both, architectural structures of early civilizations, and certain culture-specific ceremonial garb. The gestural cues displayed in these works often have pronounced matriarchal overtones consistent with cultural histories; hands-on-hips and outstretched arms -- seemingly giving or welcoming someone or something -- all work to illustrate maternal characteristics.
Likewise, the curatorial decision to display smaller stoneware works on beautifully exposed wooden pedestals and even on the gallery floor, enhances the familial aura that her artwork exudes. Moving through the exhibition, one has the sense of almost intruding on a very intimate space, perhaps one in which women are gathered.
Conceptually, women as vessels and jugs can be associated with age-old cliches on womanhood, childbearing, strength, and the expectations that surround them. But there are powerful subtleties that are highlighted in Leigh’s works, which act as a thread between the past, present and future of what it means to be a woman and more specifically, a woman of African descent, navigating current spaces as a minority, while carrying the weight of these ancestral histories.
Simone Leigh’s self-titled show will be on view until October 20, 2018 at Luhring Augustine.