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Xaviera Simmons: Falk Visiting Artist

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  • Xaviera Simmons
    United States, born 1974
    Currents, 2010
    Chromogenic color print, edition of 3
    40 x 50 in.
    Courtesy of the artist and David Castillo, Miami


    I am always thinking about the overall history of painting (which is quite long) and the history of photography (which is quite brief). I think about the characters that have or have not populated or owned their lives inside of those imaginative, speculative spaces.

    —Xaviera Simmons


    Whether the rocky terrain of a desert or the lush foliage of the tropics, markers of place are critical to Simmons’s thinking. In her early 20s, the artist joined a Buddhist pilgrimage that retraced some of the routes of the transatlantic slave trade. That sustained meditation on land and sea as the backdrop to the tremendous trauma involved with the construction of the United States consistently surfaces in her images.

    Here, the figure views a canyon in the American west through a vintage camera. When that land was first photographed in the late 1800s, it was by White men who had already enacted brutality upon it by staking territories for mining, railroads, and other industrial expansions—claims made at the violent expense of Native inhabitants. Situating the figure in the role of surveyor, Simmons asks us to consider those who have been a part of this landscape over time. By what means have some claimed it? Under what pressures have others been forced to release it?

    © Xaviera Simmons

  • Xaviera Simmons
    United States, born 1974
    Index Two, Composition Three, 2012
    Chromogenic color print, edition of 3
    50 x 40 in.
    Courtesy of the artist and David Castillo, Miami


    I think research yields a great deal and can help the researcher find different threads of ideas that may not be harmonious. Through time and with patience and focus, you bring them all together.

    —Xaviera Simmons


    As a sign or measure, an index points our thinking from one thing to another. In her ongoing series, Index/Composition, Simmons constructs collections of found objects on human figures. From bird nests to vintage photographs, magazine pages to feather boas and plastic toys, swatches of fabric to Polaroids and package labels—these cultural artifacts suggest something about the figures who hold them. Though we cannot see the figures’ faces, the assembled objects give us stories in a sort of collaged, abstract portrait.

    Taking in each element, we can wonder where the individuals are from, what experiences have shaped their lives, and where they might be going. What conclusions do we draw based on our first glance? What more can we imagine as we take in elements that don’t fit those assumptions? And, what can we learn about ourselves from the associations we make?

    © Xaviera Simmons

  • Xaviera Simmons
    United States, born 1974
    Index Six, Composition One, 2013
    Black and white pigment, edition of 3
    50 x 62 ½ in.
    Courtesy of the artist and David Castillo, Miami


    © Xaviera Simmons

  • Xaviera Simmons
    United States, born 1974
    Sundown (Number Seventeen), 2018
    Chromogenic color print, edition of 3
    60 x 45 in.
    Courtesy of the artist and David Castillo, Miami


    These works are tasked with the question, “What would our overall contemporary culture and landscape look and feel like had Black Americans who descend from the institution of chattel slavery, those who built the country with their free labor for almost 300 years, been able to create continued generational stability within America?”

    —Xaviera Simmons


    This image belongs to a series of works that Simmons titles Sundown, a word she takes from the phrase “sundown towns.” Throughout the United States, sundown towns are places where Black individuals and other racial and ethnic minorities are not welcome after dark and face threats of violence from the town’s White inhabitants. Through the centuries of state sanctioned plantation slavery, the Jim Crow era in the 20th century, and into the present, such locations have used town policies, real estate covenants, and intimidation to exclude people of color.

    Each of Simmons’s photographs in this series depicts a figure carrying that history by holding up a text or a reproduction of an archival photograph. The artist sees herself as “archivist, image maker, producer, director and sometimes actor.” Here, she presents an image so large it must be carried with two hands, giving history a physical presence. Looking away, the figure forces us as viewers to be the ones to strongly confront the country’s trauma and the historical narratives that construct how we live today.

    © Xaviera Simmons



  • Xaviera Simmons: Falk Visiting Artist, Weatherspoon Art Museum, installation photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications, 2021.





  • Xaviera Simmons: Falk Visiting Artist, Weatherspoon Art Museum, installation photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications, 2021.





  • Xaviera Simmons: Falk Visiting Artist, Weatherspoon Art Museum, installation photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications, 2021.





  • Xaviera Simmons: Falk Visiting Artist, Weatherspoon Art Museum, installation photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications, 2021.





  • Xaviera Simmons: Falk Visiting Artist, Weatherspoon Art Museum, installation photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications, 2021.





  • Xaviera Simmons: Falk Visiting Artist, Weatherspoon Art Museum, installation photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications, 2021.





  • Xaviera Simmons: Falk Visiting Artist, Weatherspoon Art Museum, installation photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications, 2021.





  • Xaviera Simmons: Falk Visiting Artist, Weatherspoon Art Museum, installation photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications, 2021.



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