Support the Whitney
Become a founding member today.Join now
Lorna Simpson’s staged photographs combine image and text, generating meaning indirectly through word play and addressing questions of identity yet refusing to take any straightforward position on race, class, or gender. 2 Tracks is an anonymous portrait; in a technique Simpson has used in much of her work, its closely shorn, female subject faces away from the camera. The photograph is flanked on either side by an image of a single black braid. Two accompanying plaques, reading “back” and “track” have multiple valences, alluding at once to the photographs’ literal subjects, general ideas of progress and struggle, and the specific themes of racism and regression. Deftly eluding a simplistic historical reading, Simpson’s work instead prompts the viewer to fill in the gaps between text and image. As in the tradition of Conceptual art from which the artist emerges, viewers are encouraged to participate in the creation and completion of the work’s meaning.