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Artist

Lorna Simpson (1960-)

Title

Counting

Date

1991

Medium

Photogravure and screenprint

Dimensions

Sheet (Sight): 73 5/8 × 37 7/8 in. (187 × 96.2 cm) Image: 68 1/8 × 34 in. (173 × 86.4 cm)

Edition information

60/60 | 10 APs, 4 PPs, 1 BAT, 1 Exhibition Proof, 1 Special Proof for David Kiehl

Publication information

Printed by Branstead Studio; published by Brooke Alexander Editions; published by Josh Baer Gallery

Credit line

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Purchase, with funds from the Print Committee

Accession number

93.94

Object Label

Originally a documentary photographer, Lorna Simpson draws on photography’s ability to present concrete evidence while also challenging the medium’s assumed transparency by cropping her subjects and juxtaposing images with enigmatic and often cautionary texts. Counting, a large-scale print combining photogravure and serigraph techniques, comprises three evocative images, each captioned with cryptic enumerations. The top image, a closely cropped view of a woman’s upper torso, neck, chin, and mouth, is paired with a numerical sequence whose mechanized quality reinforces the subject’s anonymity. The central panel, depicting a South Carolina smokehouse of the type once used to house slaves, is bracketed by texts that conflate physical (“1575 bricks”) and temporal (“310 years ago”) quantities. This photograph, in turn, inflects the language and image of the bottom panel: the words “twists” and “locks” refer directly to the innocuous process of hairstyling represented in the oval coil of hair, but also resonate with the insidious themes of imprisonment opened up by the smokehouse image. Like much of Simpson’s work, Counting eludes straightforward interpretation, evoking multiple dimensions of African American history and life experience.

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