Installation view, Simone Leigh, ICA/Boston. 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 3, 2023–March 3, 2024) and a joint presentation at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and California African American Museum (CAAM) in Los Angeles (May 26, 2024–January 20, 2025).
Boston public school teachers can apply to receive a free ICA classroom art kit that includes an art making lesson and art supplies such as clay, raffia, and more. Each kit accommodates 25 students.
Poss Family Mediatheque
The Mediatheque features a library of resources on black feminism, in partnership with Frugal Bookstore — Boston’s only Black-owned bookstore — and highlights the U.S. Pavilion at the 2022 Venice Biennale. See a list of recommended books
Audio responses to selected works in the exhibition students by students Spelman College’s AUC Art History + Curatorial Studies Collective will be available in the Mediatheque and on the ICA’s Digital Guide on Bloomberg Connects. Written texts by the students are available on simoneleighvenice2022.org. Listen now
Bank of America Art Lab
Boston-based artist Elisa Hamilton’s participatory installation Can You See Me? invites visitors to reflect on identity through image and what we choose to share about ourselves.