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By the time Brooklyn-based Lorna Simpson completed her M.F.A. at the University of California, San Diego, in 1985, she was already gaining recognition for her large-scale photographs focusing on the female African American figure. Subtly addressing issues of racial and gender identity in American society, she juxtaposed text with her photographs, continually presenting her female subject as anonymous by hiding part of her face or choosing a view of the figure’s back. Thus the viewer never knew these women as individuals.

In Counting, Simpson presents us with three images: an African American woman, a brick hut, and braids. As in most of her work, the meaning is open-ended, but the adjacent texts suggest that the work deals with labor and slavery. The woman is paired with time slots that could imply work shifts. Text alluding to the beginning of slavery appears with a Southern smokehouse once used as a slave hut. The image of braids coupled with the text “25 twists, 70 braids, 50 locks” implies the arrangement of multiple, intricate braids, a cultural trait sometimes associated with African American women.
MEDIUM Photogravure and silkscreen
DATES 1991
DIMENSIONS 73 1/4 x 37 1/2 in. (186.1 x 95.3 cm)  (show scale)
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
CREDIT LINE Gift of Ellen and Daniel Shapiro
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CAPTION Lorna Simpson (American, born 1960). Counting, 1991. Photogravure and silkscreen, 73 1/4 x 37 1/2 in. (186.1 x 95.3 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Ellen and Daniel Shapiro, 2002.58. © Lorna Simpson
IMAGE overall, 2002.58_bw_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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