November 17, 2023 - January 13, 2024
It is with delight that Corbett vs. Dempsey announces an exhibition of ten new sculptures by Diane Simpson. This is Simpson’s third solo show at CvsD.
In her latest body of work, Diane Simpson has further expanded the range of worldly references informing her sculptures. Where her practice had, for decades, revolved around ingenious extrapolations on the shapes, surfaces, and volumes of various articles of clothing, she has in recent times turned attention to certain architectural forms: windows, bannisters, transoms, and chimneys. Over the last two years, Simpson has narrowed her scope to focus on an aspect of interior design in the form of seating furniture – chairs, sofas, lounges, and other species of objects built for sitting. These are the fount of the current show. Deploying similar materials to the ones she’s used for the last four decades, namely metal and wood, often assembled from commonly available, industrially produced, hand-adjusted parts, Simpson has once again spun gold from straw, handling all aspects of the design (via beautiful preliminary schematic drawings) and construction of the works herself, without assistants or fabricators.
The work’s magic occurs in precisely aligned angles and calculated moments of disorientation, transforming quotidian forms, like that of an Adirondack chair – a common sight on lawns in the northern Chicago suburbs, near where Simpson lives – or embracing the odd, floating quality of a sled-like palanquin, which you’d never find in those environs. Like many of her Chicago compatriots, Simpson is an intrepid image-hound. Source material for this work comes from a vast repository of photographs taken by the artist as well as images she’s foraged from elsewhere, some of which she's held in her mind’s eye for many decades. All of the work is, in a sense, derived from her interest in architecture and human bodies – the architecture of clothing on the body, the architecture of bodies in spaces, and now the architecture of objects of repose. “It seemed natural to move from clothing to architecture to chairs,” she says. “I work from an image and develop the form from there.”
Simpson and her friend Christina Ramberg drew on similar, sometimes identical, source materials without knowing it; years after Ramberg’s death, Simpson recognized some of her own treasured research images also identified as important reference materials in a catalogue on Ramberg’s work. “We were on the same wavelength but never talked about it,” says Simpson. The intensely personal way that Simpson explores and transforms a visual and spatial idea relates to a particular approach that Chicago artists have taken to viewing the world. The systematic investigation of a specific form and all its potentialities is evident in the typological works of Ramberg, Ray Yoshida, Barbara Rossi, Suellen Rocca, Rebecca Shore, and many other of Simpson’s painter colleagues. With her fetishistic attention to surface and her astute understanding of the poetic resonance of geometry, Simpson has rethought the surfaces where hindquarters reside, the shared communal spaces on which we all take a seat, itself a kaleidoscopic array of formal and sculptural possibilities.
Born in Joliet, Illinois, in 1935 and a graduate of the Art Institute of Chicago (BFA, 1971; MFA, 1978), Simpson has been an integral part of the Chicago art scene since her first shows in the late 1970s. In 2020 Simpson’s first institutional solo exhibition in Europe featuring four decades of work was mounted by the Nottingham Contemporary, and the same year her early cardboard works were exhibited at the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery, Wesleyan University. Simpson was given her own room on the ground floor of the 2019 Whitney Biennial. In 2015 the ICA Boston presented a survey of work from the 1980s to the present. She is a 2019 Anonymous Was a Woman grantee and in 2018 she received a research grant from the Graham Foundation to support her project Architecture in Motion commissioned by FD13 Residency for the Arts in Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Minnesota. Her first survey took place at the Chicago Cultural Center in 2010. Simpson will be the subject of a major traveling retrospective starting in 2025.