Sperone Westwater is pleased to announce an exhibition of new work by Laurie Simmons. It is her inaugural exhibition at the gallery, and her first show of new work in New York since 1998.
Simmons’s “Instant Decorator” series, which continues her ongoing exploration of figure and interior, was inspired by Frances Joslin Gold’s 1976 book of the same title. This do-it-yourself home-design planner, featuring line drawings of conventional rooms on transparent acetate paper, allowed home decorators to sample fabric and wallpaper combinations of their own invention. But while the concept suffered one fundamental flaw – the discrepancy between the scale of the actual textiles and that of the rooms – Simmons used the creative potential of this shortcoming to her advantage. Like the sense of dislocation that characterized her early photographs of dollhouse interiors (a project, coincidently, that also began in 1976, and was recently documented in the book In and Around the House), the aesthetic inconsistencies of the new work assure a collection of domestic spaces that are simultaneously seductive and disturbing, evocative and unknown.
On first glance, The Instant Decorator (Black and White Living Room) is a blithe, uncomplicated representation of a stylish sitting room, complete with Barcelona Chair and Carroll Dunham painting. But upon closer scrutiny, the “reality” of this environment collapses: artwork hangs at an impossible angle, ashtrays are viewed from a bird’s-eye perspective, and a mysterious onlooker is only as tall as the chair next to which he stands. The coherence of the illusion is further undermined by Simmons’s innovative technique. Although these works commence as hand-crafted collages, they conclude as large-scale photographs of collages, and the smooth uniformity of their surface – so contrary to the collage method – is strangely disquieting. An artist fascinated by the “sense of inauthenticity” which pervades all experience, Simmons believes that “things only start getting interesting when there’s a neutral skin over everything.”
While the new series clearly invokes many of Simmons’s traditional themes, her departure from photographing three-dimensional spaces has compelled her to adopt a dramatically different cast of characters than the dolls and mannequins of her previous work. The artist culls this new vocabulary from fashion magazines, catalogues, and sex comics, and embellishes upon it with her own drawings. Though the aesthetic choices she makes are not too deliberate (a reflection of her belief that “the detritus around us is ultimately very random”), it is her transportation of these figures and objects from their original environments to the old-fashioned rooms of “The Instant Decorator” that allows her to impart such strong sensations of displacement and nostalgia. Finally, unlike the expressionless dolls of the artist’s prior work – who enabled what she has called an “anti-narrative” – these animated characters intimate a past and a future to the moment she describes. Simmons is careful to emphasize that each room’s internal narrative extends only so far as its random assortment of figures, but concedes that the photographs imply a narrative bent uncharted in her work until now.