- Lorna Simpson
HE HE, SHE SHE, HE SHE, HE SHE, SHE HE
- polaroid polacolor
- Each 24 by 20½ in. (61 by 52.1 cm.)
Cologne, Photokina, Selections 6: Works from the Polaroid Collection, September 1992, and traveling to 16 other venues through 1999 (see Appendix 1)
Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, American Perspectives: Photographs from the Polaroid Collection, September - November 2000, and traveling to 3 other venues through 2001 (see Appendix 1)
By limiting or eliminating visual cues relating to race and gender in her photographs, Lorna Simpson inhibits the viewer's inclination to stereotype based on physical characteristics. The text plaques that typically accompany her work, with words and phrases that are not descriptive or informational, create additional ambiguity. Assumptions are unraveled, and the viewer is forced to free-associate, to complete the story for him- or herself. Simpson delights in 'dismantling' gender identity, saying 'I like to play with gender and with associations [about] what is masculine and what is feminine and what is correct, choosing the correct attire or object for the correct gender and playing with them or putting them where they shouldn't be, or making associations that shouldn't be made, or that are outside the norm' (Saidiya V. Hartman, Lorna Simpson: For the Sake of the Viewer, p. 65).
In an extensive interview with Ann Temkin, currently chief curator of painting at The Museum of Modern Art, for the 2005 Contemporary Voices: Works from the UBS Art Collection, Simpson discussed her work—including her source for engraved text plaques from the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn; her purchase of shoes as objects from thrift stores throughout America in the 1980s; and her use of Polaroid film and the Polaroid studio in downtown Manhattan. While Simpson originally worked with a 4-by-5-inch camera, she began to use Polaroid film and cameras for her 1988 series Stereo Styles, describing the work as 'black and white Polaroids, which are really beautiful, luscious, amazing images.' When Temkin asked what had drawn Simpson to the medium, she responded,
'I loved the idea that it was instant. You could just do it and be done, you didn't have to go develop the film and print it. And I liked the visual quality of Polaroid, whether in black and white or color—a lot of my stuff was either monochromatic or very strong color. And because a lot of that work was compartmentalized or sectioned—it has all these different parts—the Polaroid gave me a format to work with compositionally, these twenty-by-twenty-four-inch segments making up a series that in turn makes up a work . . . Being instant is a beautiful quality. It lets you see what you're doing, that your exposures are correct and so on, as opposed to working with regular film' (p. 120).