Exhibitions: Lorna Simpson: Gathered

Lorna Simpson: 1957–2009

Simpson found a large group of photographs on eBay of an African American woman—and in several instances, a young man—posing in modest domestic settings in Los Angeles in 1957. Most of the photographs resemble pinups, mass-produced images popularized in the World War II era that showed a pretty girl, often a B-movie actress, in a seductive pose. By the 1950s, the ubiquity of the pinup, combined with the popularity of camera clubs for hobbyists, resulted in a burgeoning cottage industry for amateur girlie pictures like the ones seen here. But the questions the photographs raise easily outnumber any known facts about the subjects. In response to this lack of information and to the artifice and apparent self-consciousness of the models’ poses, Simpson made her own self-portraits mimicking the originals, marking the first time the artist has included her own image in her work. By positioning herself as a contemporary reflection of an unknown individual from fifty years ago, Simpson seems to be trying to replicate the original person’s experience, perhaps in order to catch a glimmer of a life that can never really be known.