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Rose B. Simpson: Counterculture

Oct 4, 2023–Jan 21, 2024

This exhibition was on view from June 3 to August 13, 2023. It is closed briefly but will open again from October 4, 2023 to January 21, 2024 with the inclusion of a billboard across from the Museum’s entrance on Gansevoort Street.

Through her work in ceramic, metal, printmaking, painting, and performance, Rose B. Simpson (b. 1983) draws connections between our contemporary lives and the landscapes we inhabit. Simpson surfaces the histories of marginalized peoples, underscoring a collective lack of awareness about our ancestral past and the natural world. For Simpson, the five figures on view here—cast in concrete in colors reminiscent of her work in clay—remind us that “we are not independent, that the inanimate are watching, and that we are responsible not only to the present but to the ancestral spirits that inhabit a particular place.”

Simpson titled both the exhibition and the individual works Counterculture as a reference to the importance of communities that live separately from dominant cultures but still have significant cultural impact. These watchful figures serve as stand-ins for those that colonization has aimed to silence, including the Lenape and who inhabited much of present-day Manhattan and the surrounding area until they were forcibly displaced by the Dutch in the seventeenth century. Looking out over the city and the Hudson River, notably through hollow eyes, they suggest an awareness of the world beyond our present reality, pointing to landscapes now obscured from this location. 

This installation is presented in conjunction with a billboard on Gansevoort Street titled Encounter. The work, a collaboration between Simpson and filmmaker Razelle Benally, is a photographic image that depicts a queer Indigenous individual framed against a rock face in northern New Mexico; the landscape in the image nods to the hardness of the city street where it is presented. As with Simpson’s sculptures on the terrace, the figure wears a beaded ceramic necklace, underscoring a connection to the natural world through the use of clay and a sense of empowerment through this adornment. For Simpson and Benally, Encounter is ultimately an invitation to consider how the natural world relates to the built environment.

This installation and Encounter are part of Outside the Box programming, which is supported by a generous endowment from the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Foundation.

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