Gary Simmons' exhibition of chalkboard wall drawings will open at Metro Pictures on March 9 and continue through April 13, 1996. Using his trademark erasure technique, Simmons will execute three large-scale chalk drawings directly on the black, chalkboard-surfaced gallery walls.
A companion project to Simmons' 1995 installation at the Lannan Foundation in Los Angeles, these works will expand on the artist's familiar vocabulary mined from cartoon imagery laden with racial stereotypes. Simmons, who is himself an African-American, removes the central cartoon characters and focuses on details and architectural images from the same cartoons. By removing these figures, Simmons seeks to expand the work's meaning to larger, more open-ended concerns of class and social structure.
The installation combines the seductive beauty of Simmons' previous chalk drawings with the power and scale of his well-known installations. During the course of the two-week drawing process Simmons will first paint the gallery walls with a black, slate-like paint and then dust the walls with chalk applied by hand with the aid of an eraser. After projecting his computer-manipulated sketches directly on the walls and drawing them in white chalk, Simmons sets upon the drawings, again by hand, to smear and smudge them. The drawings become a manifestation of this arduous process and are infused with the intense physical presence of the artist.
The exhibition's two largest drawings depict familiar images of Americana: a garden gazebo (off-center and spinning out of control on a 53 foot wall), and a rollercoaster (twisting and stretched to 45 feet). Between the two, on the rear wall of the gallery, is an archetypal cartoon explosion. This clichéd comic book image both comments on the fascination with violence in our culture and plays with the telling comic book notion that when things become too complicated they explode.
Gary Simmons has had one-person exhibitions at The Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C., the Lannan Foundation in Los Angeles, The Whitney Museum's Phillip Morris branch, White Columns in New York, and numerous galleries in the U.S. and Europe. His work was included in the 1993 Whitney Biennial, the Whitney's "Black Male: Representations of Masculinity in Contemporary American Art" and will be in "Defining the 90's: Consensus Making in New York, Los Angeles and Miami" at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Miami and "Under Capricorn: Art in the Age of Globalization" at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam in June. He is doing a special project for the opening of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago in June of 1996. This will be the artist's third exhibition with Metro Pictures.
Simmons attended The School of Visual Arts in New York City and The California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California, as well as The Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. Simmons, who was born, lives and works in New York City, was a recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts, Interarts Grant in 1990.