In the dim light pressing deeply against each other
David Castillo presents In the dim light pressing deeply against each other, Xaviera Simmons’ seventh solo exhibition with the gallery. The show features a new body of text and color field paintings by the artist.
In a cinematic treatment of the sensual relationships between feeling, perception, and language, the discursive writings which wind across Simmons’ paintings evoke the pleasures of landscapes in their natural, manmade, and abstracted forms. These works relate themselves to their viewer, nodding towards the interconnectedness of bodies, emotional states, and the means through which pleasure is elicited through sensorial experiences. With words and short sentences crafted in fragments across their painted canvas surfaces, Simmons’s paintings suggest rather than describe their settings, structures, and forms. In these indirect representations, the artist works within histories of art, inverting tropes of the landscape genre and loosely referencing—in language, texture, and tone— works by canonical female abstract painters, to elicit formal encounters that simultaneously comment on the social, cultural, and political terrains that are coded within ideologies of pictorial space.
The works in this exhibition construct images indirectly, foregrounding the sensory experiences through which their form and subject can be gleaned. The text and color fields that comprise these works point towards scents, sensations, sounds, and views that together form associative frameworks and give rise to the settings represented therein. Much of the language in these works revises the iconographic conventions of landscapes, which have long conflated national myths of unbounded freedom and exceptionalism with the sublime grandeur of nature. Simmons deconstructs this visual history and rewrites landscape beyond its idealization, making room for a treatment more in line with its unwritten realities.
Created in tandem with recent, major projects at Desert X and Pioneer Works where the artist engaged monumentality in her art, Simmons brings the works in this exhibition to a more human scale. In keeping with the show’s title, these paintings are more intimate in their scope, and brought closer to their viewer so as to be readily confronted head-on. These works spread in sequences across the gallery as triptychs and diptychs of word and color. In their evocative nature, the paintings in this exhibition portray a cascade of settings, emotional notes, and engagements with the sensuous, subjects that are unknowable beyond the works’ formal components and that cannot be wholly understood by conventional pictorial means. The abstracted impressions of these varied states, senses, and bodily encounters acknowledge the limitations of the visual to fully contain the complexities of meaning embedded within any one sensorial experience. To this end, In the dim light pressing deeply against each other presents scenes that are monumental in their symbolic magnitude, and rely on language to guide the viewer in imagining the multitude of overlapping sensations necessary to fill in the full picture.
While committed to institutional and social transformation through her practice, Simmons also holds steadfast to engaging formal concerns in her work and approaching this mode of production as a tool which foregrounds the histories of art from which she continuously draws reference. In the dim light pressing deeply against each other overlays these various means of reading an artwork across social, political, cultural, as well as sensual experiences. And the exhibition ultimately attends to how these points of access are reinforced or complicated through the formal properties of line, color, and form.
Xaviera Simmons’ body of work spans photography, painting, performance, video, sound, sculpture and installation. Recent solo exhibitions include New Monuments at Socrates Sculpture Park, New York; a large-scale project at Desert X, Coachella Valley, CA, curated by Neville Wakefield; Posture at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University; Chord, curated by Sally Tallant for the Platform program at The Armory Show, NY; and Convene at the SculptureCenter, NY, among others. Simmons was awarded the Charles Flint Kellog award from Bard College in 2020 as well as the inaugural Solomon Fellow at Harvard University (2019-20). She is the Falk Visiting Artist at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (2021); and a recipient of Agnes Gund’s Art for Justice Award (2018); Foundation for Contemporary Art Award; Louis Comfort Tiffany Award; and former artist-in-residence at The Studio Museum in Harlem. Current and recent museum group exhibitions include Liverpool Biennial of Contemporary Art, UK; The Wallach Art Gallery, Columbia University, New York, NY; The Jewish Museum, New York, NY; Perez Art Museum Miami; Minneapolis Institute of Art; Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; New Museum, New York, NY; Center for Visual Arts, MSU Denver, CO; Akron Art Museum; Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City; The High Line, New York, NY; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Institute for Contemporary Art, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA; Bass Museum of Art, Miami Beach, FL; Smart Museum of Art, Chicago, IL, among others. Simmons’ work has been featured and reviewed in many publications over the years, most recently in The New York Times, ArtNews, The Los Angeles Times, Artnet News, The Art Newspaper, Artforum, The Brooklyn Rail, Hyperallergic, The Washington Post, Harper’s Bazaar Magazine, Marie Claire, and others. The artist’s works are in major museum and private collections including The Museum of Modern Art, New York; UBS, New York; The Guggenheim Museum, New York; The Agnes Gund Art Collection, New York; 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; the de la Cruz Collection, Miami, and Rubell Museum, Miami, among others. The artist 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.