‘Sentinel IV’ (2020), was created to benefit the non-profit organization Color Of Change in its efforts to combat racial injustice in the United States. One hundred percent of the proceeds from the sale of the work, which has been produced in an edition of 25, will be donated to the progressive civil rights advocacy group.
‘Major social change has never happened without the voices and contributions of artists and cultural leaders. Simone’s work makes visible and palpable the subjectivity of Black women, whose experiences and leadership have always been central to struggles for liberation nationally and globally.’—Rashad Robinson, President, Color Of Change
Recognizable within Leigh’s sculptural language is the tradition of referencing early African American forms. In this new body of work, Leigh is informed by a vital sculptural tradition of West and South African provenance. This can be seen in the sculptural custom of combining the body with tools, creating carved hybrid forms which often function as spiritual or ceremonial objects.
Leigh turns to the material culture of these regions through the examination of everyday objects. Her work explores the physical and figurative transformation that occurs through their repeated use, and the stories revealed through a person’s interaction with the object. ‘Sentinel IV’ does not buttress the idea that Black women are innately strong and invulnerable, working instead to abstract their formal characteristics. This form exists in a category described in West African Art as a power object, something that acts either through formal significance or ritual use.
Leigh’s practice is informed by her ongoing exploration of Black femme subjectivity, and her objects often employ materials and forms traditionally associated with African and African American art and material culture. Through her investigations of visual overlaps between cultures, time periods, and geographies, she confronts and examines assumptions about the female body, race, beauty, and community.
Simone Leigh’s practice incorporates sculpture, video, and installation; all are informed by her ongoing exploration of black female-identified subjectivity. Leigh works in a mode she describes as auto-ethnographic. Her objects often employ materials and forms traditionally associated with African art; her performance-influenced installations create spaces where historical precedent and self-determination comingle.
Simone LeighSentinel IV
Although contextualized within the architecture of the Black female body, the ‘Sentinel IV’ does not prioritize the physical form as its subject matter. It addresses the social reality that arises from the use, consumption, and creation of objects, as well as the behaviors and rituals they create, communities they serve, and the belief systems they uphold. Rather than seeking to represent a singular person or figure, Leigh depicts many things simultaneously: a state of mind, an interior or external experience, an invisible history.
Simone Leigh is the first artist to be commissioned for the High Line Plinth; her monumental sculpture ‘Brick House’ was unveiled in April 2019. Leigh’s work was featured in Loophole of Retreat, a major exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum, New York to commemorate her achievements as the winner of the Hugo Boss Prize 2018.
About Color Of Change
Leigh has chosen ‘Sentinel IV’ in support of an organization doing critical work to create a more equitable and just world. Color Of Change is the nation’s largest online racial justice organization that helps people respond effectively to injustice in the world around us. As a national online force driven by millions of members, Color Of Change moves decision-makers in corporations and government to create a more human and less hostile world for Black people in America.
All images: © Simone Leigh