The ICA announces the name and details of the American exhibition at the Venice Biennale: ‘Simone Leigh: GRITTIN’


“With these works, Leigh weaves references to 19th-century West African art, the material culture of early black Americans, and the colonial history of international exhibitions.” according to the ICA. The announcement was made during a live virtual media event on Wednesday morning.

Leigh’s exhibit will also feature a three-day symposium, “Loophole of Retreat: Venice,” from a 2019 project at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City. The symposium will bring together international artists, activists and academics in the fall to present programming on “the intellectual and creative work of black women,” the ICA said. It will also include screenings, performances and dialogues on a number of topics, including magical realism and medicine. “The retirement loophole” is how author Harriet Jacobs described the small attic where she lived after her escape from slavery in her 1861 autobiography, “Incidents in the Life of a Slave”.

In this 2020 photo provided by the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, artist Simone Leigh poses for a photo at Stratton Sculpture Studios in Philadelphia. Leigh will be the first black woman to represent the United States at the prestigious Venice Biennale Arts Festival in Italy to be held in 2022.Shaniqwa Jarvis / Simone Leigh and Hauser & Wirth via AP

Following the Biennale – which was postponed for a year due to the pandemic – Leigh’s work from the exhibit will tour museums across the United States, beginning with the first museum inquiry exhibit of the artist at the ICA in 2023.

GRITTIN“Marks the first time that the American Pavilion at the Biennale will be” entirely dedicated to the experiences and contributions of black women, “said Jill Medvedow, co-curator of next year’s American Pavilion and Ellen Matilda Poss director of the ICA. Leigh is the first black woman to represent the United States at the Biennale, which will run from April 23 to November 27, 2022. The last two American artists sent to Venice – Mark Bradford in 2017 and Martin Puryear in 2019 – are black men.

“Grittin”, a nod to the African-American vernacular English term for “adopting a protective posture”, is also a reference to the “grain” of sand and stone which are at the heart of the sculptures, and to internal courage. and determination that Leigh designed many sculptures to embody, according to the ICA.

Eva Respini, pavilion co-curator and chief curator Barbara Lee at the ICA, highlighted Leigh’s “quote ethics”, in which the artist “refers to ideas, achievements and history. of the intellectual work of black women ”.

In addition to sculpture, the 54-year-old Chicago-born artist whose sculpture “Cupboard IX” was featured in an exhibition earlier this year at the ICA, also has a background in video and art from the performance.

Sculpture “Cupboard IX” by Simone Leigh at the ICA.Mel Taing / Courtesy of the Institute of Contemporary Art

The ICA announced that Leigh was chosen to represent the United States at the Biennale last October. The American pavilion presents new art as part of the Biennale every two years.

The ICA works with Spelman College in Atlanta – a college of historically black women – and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice to educate students and educators at the respective institutions about Leigh’s work and her exhibition.

Dana Gerber can be reached at [email protected]


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