Celebrating Black Beauty

Simone Leigh Brick House

Photo by Timothy Schenck

Photo by Timothy Schenck

A detail of the face of Simone Leigh's  Brick House  while being sculpted by fabricators.Photo by Timothy Schenck

A detail of the face of Simone Leigh's Brick House while being sculpted by fabricators.Photo by Timothy Schenck


Simone Leigh latest achievements on her ongoing exploration of black female subjectivity and ethnography have been recognised with the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum Hugo Boss Prize to the recent Whitney Biennial (17 May-22 September) and final colossal piece, Brick House (2018-19) just opened on 5th June that is on view at the elevated linear park in Manhattan known as the High Line.

Simone Leigh,  No Face (Pannier) , 2018 ©Luhring Augustine

Simone Leigh, No Face (Pannier), 2018 ©Luhring Augustine

Located on the High Line at West 30th Street and 10th Avenue, the Plinth is a new landmark destination for major public art commissions in New York City. The torso is a combination of the forms of a skirt and a clay house. The figure stands tall and monumental atop the Plinth, gazing resolutely down 10th Avenue. Brick House’s head is crowned with an afro framed by cornrow braids that extend off the head into four braids, each ending with a cowrie shell. The domed shape of the shoulders and bust are adorned with a pattern of elongated ridges. Brick House is the first monumental work in Anatomy of Architecture, Leigh’s continuing series of sculptures that combine architectural forms from regions as varied as West Africa and the American South with the human body. The sculpture references numerous architectural styles: Batammaliba architecture from Benin and Togo; the teleuk of the Mousgoum people of Cameroon and Chad; and the restaurant Mammy’s Cupboard from the southern U.S. All three references inform both the formal elements of the work—the conflated image of woman and architecture—and its conceptual framework.

Leigh’s magnificent Black female figure challenges visitors to think more immediately about the architecture around them, and how it reflects customs, values, priorities, and society as a whole.

Simone Leigh, the winner of the Hugo Boss Prize David Heald/© The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation

Simone Leigh, the winner of the Hugo Boss Prize David Heald/© The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation

Simone Leigh works across sculpture, video, installation, and social practice, stitching together references from different historical periods and distant geographical locations. In her densely researched practice, Leigh focuses on how the body, society, and architecture inform and reveal one another. In tandem, Leigh examines the construction of Black female subjectivity, both through specific historical figures such as Josephine Baker and Katherine Dunham, and more generally through overlapping historical lineages across Europe, Africa, the U.S., and the Caribbean. Her intersectional practice draws on a range of disciplines, including the history of architecture, ethnography, feminist discourse, folklore, dance, and histories of political resistance. For Leigh, “architecture is a text that we can read to understand the ontological, philosophical, and psychological expressions of a culture.”

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