On Dec. 16, the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston (ICA) opens the first solo museum exhibition of Chicago-based artist Diane Simpson (b. 1935, Joliet, Illinois). Organized by Dan Byers, Mannion Family Senior Curator, Diane Simpson is on view at the ICA through March 27, 2016. Over the last thirty-five years, Simpson has produced a unique group of highly stylized sculptures that draw inspiration from clothing, the body, architecture, and the domestic sphere. The ICA will present a concise survey of Simpson’s sculptures featuring 15 works made between 1980 and 2014, along with a selection of related drawings and a slideshow made in collaboration with San Francisco-based artist Vincent Fecteau. The exhibition also includes a sculptural work on view for the first time.
While Simpson’s sculptures appear deceptively simple, they are in fact the result of a rigorous approach to making that mixes elements of clothing with construction techniques and display details gleaned from vernacular architecture, store window display, and interior design. Simpson trained as a painter and printmaker, and all of her sculptures begin as highly-detailed drawings, often made from images she has collected. Each of Simpson’s drawings is inspired by a different element of clothing, from historical sources such as samurai armor or shaker bonnets, to accessories found closer to home, like aprons or bibs. Simpson then fashions her sculptures from a wide range of both common and specialized materials—from corrugated cardboard and medium-density fiberboard to a diverse range of woods, metals, and textiles—depending on the source, as well as the intended shape and structure of each work. Surface and support intertwine: ornamental elements are constructed to hold the object together, while joints and supports create repeating patterns and moments of embellishment.

For Simpson, the sculptural process is one of translation, whereby her construction methods and material choices derive from the desire to realize each drawing in three-dimensions. Through this process, Simpson creates sculptures that consider formally and conceptually the way bodies are covered, shaped, and defined through dress. In doing so, Simpson’s works appear both vividly corporeal, as they reveal the body through spaces left around clothing, as well as abstract, with a restrained vocabulary of simple forms used to define each covering element. The results are carefully constructed, deceptively complex sculptures that interweave structure and function, and are layered with ideas about gender and dress, domestic and urban spaces, and an ethics of labor and making.  

A publication, including an interview with the artist, will accompany the exhibition.
About the artist
Diane Simpson received a BFA in 1971 and a MFA in 1978 from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Since 1979 she has been an active participant of numerous solo and group exhibitions in the USA. Recent solo and two-person exhibitions include SILBERKUPPE, Berlin (2015); New York University’s Washington Square East Gallery (2014); Chicago Cultural Center (2010); and Racine Art Museum, Racine, Wisconsin (2007). Recent and forthcoming group exhibitions include The Jewish Museum (2015); Maccarone Gallery, New York (2015); Sikkema Jenkins & Co, New York (2015); and CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Art, San Francisco (2015). The artist’s work is in the permanent collections of the Art Institute of Chicago; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Illinois State Museum, Springfield, IL; Racine Art Museum, Racine WI; Rockford Art Museum, Rockford, IL; The James R. Thompson Center, Chicago; and the Samek Art Gallery, Bucknell University, Lewiston, PA.