The Phillips Collects: Simone Leigh

Simone Leigh, No Face (Crown Heights), 2018

Simone Leigh, No Face (Crown Heights), 2018, Terracotta, graphite ink, salt-fired porcelain, epoxy, 20 x 8 x 8 in., The Phillips Collection, Director’s Discretionary Fund, 2018

Simone Leigh (b. 1967, Chicago) creates exquisitely crafted ceramic sculptures informed by her ongoing exploration of black female subjectivity and ethnography. Through ceramics, Leigh references vernacular visual traditions from the Caribbean, the American South, and the African continent, as well as the black diasporic experience dating from the Middle Passage to the present. Vessels, cowrie shells, and busts are reoccurring forms, each making symbolic reference to the black body.

The faceless bust of No Face (Crown Heights) is encircled by a rosette featuring dozens of tiny, handcrafted ceramic roses. Leigh thinks of her sculptures as performative in the sense that she is “performing” the work of anonymous African potters (often women). The hollowness of the works is not meant to impart emptiness or anonymity, but rather the loss of authorship associated with African ceramics.

Leigh is the recipient of the prestigious 2018 Hugo Boss Prize.Her work is the collections of the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; the Perez Art Museum, Miami; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; and the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, among others.

“I am so pleased to embrace this subtle and thought-provoking work by Simone Leigh for The Phillips Collection. The personal, hand-made quality of this mysterious object engages us with surprising intensity. I’m particularly glad that we continue to add to the number of women artists represented in the collection.” —Vradenburg Director and CEO Dorothy Kosinski

Inside It Looks Like It’s Going To Be (Part I)

The Phillips’s latest Intersections Contemporary Art Project, Richard Tuttle: It Looks Like It’s Going To Be, has opened on the second floor of the Phillips House galleries. In the extensive exhibition—his “most ambitious,” according to the artist—Tuttle has paired a 41-verse poem that he wrote with 41 artworks that he created for the installation. The exhibition also includes 16 works on paper that he selected from the permanent collection.

Richard Tuttle with his work Just in Case You want to Order (2018). Photo: Rhiannon Newman

Richard Tuttle with his work Just in case You want to order (2018). Photo: Rhiannon Newman

The artist explains: “There’s this point where the artist—and that includes poets and choreographers or novelists—cuts themself off from their audience. The kind of work I do, it’s intense and it’s concentrated, I can actually become unmindful that this is about communication, this is about an audience connecting. But it’s also—a friend of mine, a very wise friend of mine, spoke in terms of the lecture form and said that, ‘If the lecturer does not make contact with the audience, it’s not a lecture.’ I think that’s the same in art where the artist loses contact with the audience. It’s a tightrope, it’s a walking an edge where if the audience is too much in the mind of the artist it becomes popularistic or loses strength. We’re talking about a sound bite situation and I very much—I fall in love with certain ideas and I turn those over in my head for brief periods of time.”

Richard Tuttle: It Seems Like It's Going To Be installation view. Photo: Lee Stalsworth

Richard Tuttle: It Seems Like It’s Going To Be installation view. Photo: Lee Stalsworth

Richard Tuttle: It Seems Like It's Going To Be installation view. Photo: Lee Stalsworth

Richard Tuttle: It Seems Like It’s Going To Be installation view. Photo: Lee Stalsworth

Staff Show 2018: Charles Chen

In this series, Manager of Visitor and Family Engagement Emily Bray highlights participants in This Is My Day Job: The 2018 James McLaughlin Memorial Staff Show, on view through September 30, 2018.

The Intersection of Symbolism and Realism by Charles Chen

The Intersection of Symbolism and Realism by Charles Chen

Tell us about yourself.

I am an artist and museum professional. I currently work as a Museum Assistant at The Phillips Collection and an Interpretive Visitor Guide at the US Capitol. I have also served at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and the Newseum. I studied studio art and museum studies for my undergraduate and graduate degrees, respectively. As an artist, my mediums of interest include printmaking, works on paper, digital art, and photography. I am interested in documenting social justice and inequality, urban culture, and politics.

What do you do at The Phillips Collection? Are there any unique or interesting parts about your job that most people might not know about?

I am a Museum Assistant. I safeguard the collections and help make visitors’ experience memorable and enjoyable. But when visitors are not around, I get to study the museum’s world-class paintings up close, observing artists’ skillful and expressive techniques and realizing small details and revelations over time and repeated observation.

Photo of Charles Chen

Charles Chen

Who is your favorite artist in the collection?

John Sloan and Pierre Bonnard

What is your favorite space within The Phillips Collection?

Staircase of the original Phillips House

What would you like people to know about your artwork on view in the 2018 Staff Show (or your work in general)?

I work in digital and traditional art mediums but I am drawn most to photography, specifically the subject matter of street photography. A native New Yorker and urbanite, I am drawn to the energy of recording humanity and all its interaction with the urban environment. This tongue-and-cheek scene explores an every day scene while playfully contrasting different artistic movements.

This Is My Day Job: The James McLaughlin Memorial Staff Show is on view through September 30, 2018.