For over 30 years, Simmons’ multidisciplinary practice has probed American history to examine the pervasive nature of racist ideology and its manifestations in visual culture.
Gary Simmons’ first exhibition with Hauser & Wirth debuts new paintings, wall drawings, and sculpture, as well as the installation ‘Recapturing Memories of the Black Ark.’ Drawn from both personal and collective memory, his works address themes of race, identity, politics, and social inequality, and the ways in which these issues are both evident and concealed in the cultural landscape.
On view in the gallery’s courtyard, ‘Recapturing Memories of the Black Ark’ is a work created from amalgamated materials sourced from the Tremé neighborhood of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Inspired by the studio of legendary Jamaican record producer Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, this sculptural installation will be the site of numerous activations throughout the duration of the exhibition.
‘Remembering Tomorrow’ foregrounds Simmons’ distinctive contributions to contemporary image making, particularly through his use of erasure as a form of Action Painting freighted with deep cultural significance. Simmons wipes the surface of his work while the paint is still wet in order to smear the image so that it simultaneously emerges and disappears. This tactic is central to the new paintings on view, in which Simmons presents the viewer with racialized imagery once prevalent in American popular culture, including such archetypical cartoon characters as Honey and Bosko.
The exhibition includes four massive wall drawings created onsite that also employ the artist's erasure technique and feature similar motifs as those found in the paintings. Their fragile surfaces, achieved through either inky black paint or dusty chalk, highlight Simmons’ technical prowess and ability to capture the poignancy of time’s passage: by retaining the lasting gestural marks of his working process and physical presence in the space, these drawings hint at their own ephemeral nature and the transience of memory.
Revisiting motifs found in his early works, Simmons reconsiders the aesthetic possibilities of public school cafeteria tables in ‘You Can Paint Over Me But I’ll Still Be Here,’ a new sculptural installation. The work is comprised of five tables arranged in dynamic configurations with groups of figures representing racist tropes from historic cartoons. In this work, Simmons establishes the school lunchroom as analog for society at large – a site where a distinct social hierarchy reigns and identity is shaped and performed.
One of the foremost artists of a generation which emerged during the late 1980s and early 1990s, Gary Simmons has achieved wide acclaim over the past three decades for his work which explores the politics of race, class and social stereotypes through painting, sculpture, sound and architectural environments. Simmons uses imagery drawn from popular culture to create works that address personal and collective memories.
Gary SimmonsRemembering Tomorrow
On view now through 22 May 2022 at Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles.