Xaviera Simmons’s body of work spans photography, performance, video, sound and installation. She defines her studio practice, which is rooted in an ongoing investigation of experience, memory, abstraction, present and future histories, and specifically shifting notions surrounding landscape, as cyclical rather than linear.
For Underscore, Simmons looks at how artists draw directly from the movements, subtitles, and concepts of other practitioners. She shows how inspiration informs rehearsing, giving birth to new expression in the culminating work. The exhibition includes two photographs from the Untitled (Cape) series; a slide installation, Into the Rehearsal; and the premiere of a site-specific performance work, Number 17.
In Warm Leatherette and Horse (both 2009), Simmons selects diverse record sleeves as the catalyst for the photographs; simultaneously landscape surveyor, photographer, actor, and musician, she stages characters in scenic locales with each face (re)placed by an LP cover depicting a familiar portrait of a musician. This project combines her engagement with landscape, locales, portraiture, and performance.
For Into the Rehearsal (2013), Simmons examines contemporary modes of collecting and archiving, presenting digitally manipulated images culled from online Jamaican dance hall footage. Shown on a slide projector on a slow fade in an intentionally locked room and seen through an aperture, these images are a chapter in a growing body of work she has been producing since 2010.
Number 17 (2013), the artist’s most complex endurance-based performance to date, was presented over five hours on opening day, transforming the Opatrny Gallery into an active rehearsal/studio space, where the audience confronted “acts” of visual and sound construction, informed by post-modern avant-garde performance techniques, improvisational sound art, endurance practices, and action painting.
A video and vestiges of the process document the event and its aftermath, acting as testament to the synergy of art, its production, and everlasting legacy.
As a totality, the works on view underscore the experimental, the improvisational, and the collaborative as critical systems of art practice, collapsing the artist/audience and artist/performer dynamic to make evident the processes during and after the making.
Amy Smith-Stewart, Senior Curator.
Xaviera Simmons lives and works in New York City.