Xaviera Simmons:
Crisis Makes a Book Club

Crisis Makes a Book Club is a comprehensive exhibition of Xaviera Simmons’ formal practice including photography, painting, video, sculpture, and installation. Featuring new monumental projects, Simmons examines how the conditions of the United States’ empire and the art industry are shaped by the construction of whiteness, labor politics, and institutional failures that are both intentional and deep-rooted.

Simmons addresses these histories by drawing throughlines between European art historical forms, language, landscape, and photography as a witness. Towering figures, video, and animations occupy chromatically coordinated gallery spaces, while large scale photographs of sculpturally composed flowers encircle a monolithic structure covered with hand-painted text written by the artist. Together with a billboard-sized graphic on the Museum’s facade, Simmons’ works tether form to sensuality, desire, and movement to underscore white American dominance and capitalism as intertwined mechanisms that uphold the vast reach of the United States’ empire. The framework of the exhibition includes critical language that directly amplifies the need for action in lieu of representation as an indicator of change. This political and rigorous discourse is accompanied by moments of pause and respite.

Simmons also presents a large projection in the distribution area of the La Jornada and Queens Museum Cultural Food Pantry that visualizes the work of the pantry and acknowledges the societal conditions of capitalism, wealth stratification, and financial manipulation from which food pantries are born. During the exhibition, multilingual questions will engage pantry organizers, volunteers, and patrons, and their responses will be updated periodically. Through this work, Simmons acknowledges that the necessity of food pantries can only be countered by accountability and large-scale systemic change in this nation.

The exhibition’s title, Crisis Makes a Book Club, reflects on the stasis of reading groups, podcasts, listening sessions, and other non-active movements offered as a stand-in for true action in the presence of state-sanctioned violence and death. The exhibition includes the long lecture, a series of day-long multilingual readings of works by invited writers. Thousands of books will also be distributed, including titles that contend with social histories of the United States and the far reaching systems that persist as a continuation of anti-Blackness and anti-Indigenous colonial damage and white terror.

Xaviera Simmons: Crisis Makes a Book Club is organized by Lindsey Berfond, Assistant Curator and Studio Program Manager and Hitomi Iwasaki, Curator and Head of Exhibitions.

Xaviera Simmons (b. New York, NY) is an artist whose sweeping practice includes photography, painting, video, sound, sculpture, text and installation that engages with the formal histories of art through the construction of landscape and language, as well as an understanding of the complex histories of the United States and its continuing empire building internally and on a global scale. Simmons received her BFA from Bard College (2004) after spending two years on a walking pilgrimage retracing the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade with Buddhist Monks. She completed the Whitney Museum’s Independent Study Program in Studio Art (2005) while simultaneously completing a two-year actor-training conservatory with The Maggie Flanigan Studio, NY. Recent solo exhibitions include Nectar at Kadist, Paris; The Structure, The Labor, the Pause at Sarasota Art Museum; Convene at Sculpture Center, New York; Overlay at Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University; The Gold Miner’s Mission to Dwell on the Tide Line at The Museum of Modern Art- The Modern Window, New York; and CODED at The Kitchen, New York. She has participated in recent group exhibitions at museums including The Momentary at Crystal Bridges, Bentonville; Desert X, Palm Desert; Sprengel Museum Hannover; The Weatherspoon Art Museum, Greensboro; MassArt, Boston; The Renaissance Society, Chicago; Seattle Art Museum; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Nasher Museum of Art, Durham; Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus; Prospect.4, New Orleans; Fondazione Nicola Trussardi, Milan; Studio Museum in Harlem; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; Cincinnati Art Museum; Museum of the African Diaspora, San Francisco, among others. Simmons’ work has been featured and reviewed in many publications; most recently in ArtNews, The Art Newspaper, Artnet News, Artforum, Hyperallergic, New York Magazine, Bloomberg, Paper Magazine, The New York Times and others. Simmons’ works are in major museum and private collections including The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Deutsche Bank, New York; UBS, New York; The Guggenheim Museum, New York; The Agnes Gund Art Collection, New York; The De La Cruz Collection, Miami; The Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; The Studio Museum in Harlem; ICA Miami; Perez Art Museum Miami; The Weatherspoon Art Museum, Greensboro; The Nasher Museum of Art, Durham; The High Museum, Atlanta, among many others. She has held teaching positions at Harvard University, Yale University, Columbia University and The School Of The Art Institute, Chicago. In Spring 2020 she was awarded the prestigious The Charles Flint Kellogg Award in Arts and Letters from Bard College. Simmons is a recipient of Socrates Sculpture Park’s Artist Award (2019), Agnes Gund’s Art for Justice Award (2018), as well as Denniston Hills’ Distinguished Performance Artist Award (2018). The artist has exhibitions, performances and projects slated to open globally through 2024. 

Xaviera Simmons: Crisis Makes a Book Club is made possible in part by lead support from the National Endowment for the Arts, David Castillo Gallery, Agnes Gund, and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and Art for Justice Fund, a sponsored project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.

Image: Xaviera Simmons, Because You Know Ultimately We Will Band A Militia, 2021. Desert X installation view, Palm Springs, CA. Photo: Lance Gerber. Courtesy the artist and David Castillo.

 

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