Simone Leigh, Jug, 2022. Stoneware. 62 1/2 × 40 3/4 × 45 3/4 inches (158 × 103.5 × 116.2 cm). Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston. Acquired through the generosity of Susana and Clark Bernard, Adelle Chang and Eddie Yoon, the Miller-Coblentz Family, Grace Colby, Fotene Demoulas and Tom Coté, Mathieu O. Gaulin, Jessica Knez and Nicolas Dulac, Christine and John Maraganore, and the Acquisitions Circle. Courtesy the artist and Matthew Marks Gallery. Photo by Timothy Schenck. © Simone Leigh
Simone Leigh (b. 1967, Chicago) represented the United States at the 2022 Venice Biennale, one of the largest and most important contemporary art exhibitions in the world. Selections from Leigh’s landmark Venice presentation are making their U.S. premiere in Boston, joined by key works from throughout her career, providing a holistic understanding of the artist’s production in ceramic, bronze, and video.
For over two decades, Leigh has embraced a polyphonic artistic vocabulary that elaborates on Black feminist thought, an intellectual tradition which values and centers the experiences of Black women. Informed by a rigorous attention to a wide swath of historical periods, geographies, and artistic traditions of Africa and the African diaspora, Leigh often combines the female body with domestic vessels or architectural elements to point to unacknowledged acts of labor and care, particularly among and for Black women.
Clay forms the basis of most of Leigh’s artworks, including her bronze sculptures, which are first modeled in clay. The artist pushes the medium’s possibilities through scale and method, challenging conventional, hierarchical fine arts histories, which can still attach to ceramics associations around women’s labor, decoration, domestic crafts, and utility. This exhibition traces the artist’s unique visual language through signature motifs, including cowrie shells, braiding, rosettes, face vessels, and eyeless faces. Through Leigh’s re-performing of these forms in varying materials and scales, new structures of thought and meanings emerge, each consistently centering the experiences and intellectual labor of Black femmes.
Accompanied by a major monograph, this exhibition offers visitors a timely opportunity to experience the complex and profoundly moving work of this groundbreaking artist.
Simone Leigh will tour to the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. (November 2023–March 2024) and a joint presentation at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and California African American Museum (CAAM) in Los Angeles (June 2024–January 2025).