Diane Simpson, Vest (Scalloped), 2010. Copper, linoleum, steel, wood, and enamel, 55 5/8 x 21 5/8 x 14 inches (141.3 x 54.9 x 35.6 cm). Acquired through the generosity of Fotene Demoulas, in honor of Dan Byers. Courtesy the artist, Corbett vs. Dempsey, Chicago, and JTT, New York. © Diane Simpson
Over the last thirty-five years, Diane Simpson has produced a unique body of work founded on the relationship between precise, diagrammatic drawings and the uncanny sculptures they generate. Simpson begins by translating details she encounters in daily life and through research—elements of clothing, parts of the body, domestic and public archi-tectural details—into rigorous schematic drawings rendered at a 45-degree angle. From these plans she retranslates each detail back again into an object in the world. She creates each sculpture through labor-intensive fabrication, using materials that range from corrugated cardboard and MDF (medium-density fiberboard) to aluminum, wool, polyester, poplar, faux fur, mahogany, brass, copper, and steel. During this process, her original sources are wholly transformed.
Elements of clothing are Simpson’s most frequent subject. Drawing inspiration from both physical facts and their social contexts, Simpson’s decisions about color, bodily proportions, clothing references, fashion, and style add pointed specificity to each sculpture’s abstracted form. By exaggerating details such as sleeves and necklines, and often highlighting ancillary garments that cover and hide, Simpson’s outsized forms make a big deal out of the marginal. Vest (Scalloped) is one of only a few works that appropriate an existing material element: the base of the work is a stand from a dress form, which Simpson has wholly transformed by applying a thick, skinlike coating in a turquoise reminiscent of a 1950s appliance color. The upper vest form is made of a psychedelically patterned linoleum on one side and an elegant, minimalist combination of burlap and copper on the other side. Simpson is committed to the small details that normally function as supporting characters and that, by the end of her labor-intensive process, have gained new stature and created a playful distortion of everyday life.
Vest (Scalloped) joins other sculptural works in the ICA/Boston collection that address the body, gender, and the domestic, by artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Josh Faught, and Doris Salcedo.