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?”
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