Xaviera Simmons
Sundown (Number Twenty)

Xaviera Simmons often employs her own body and collected materials in the service of her photographs and performances. Not to be mistaken as mere portraiture, however, Simmons’ works are explorations of the Black body in relation to landscape and other dimensions of non-linear space and time. Concealing and flattening her subjects with costumes and collage-like, abstract pictorial devices, the artist arranges archival photographs, printed textiles, and anthropological artefacts in configurations that highlight the power of visual culture to shape contemporary understandings of the self. Dressed in wax-printed broadcloth, the subject of Sundown (Number Twenty) holds a photograph of Black agricultural workers in her left hand and a zebra-like African mask in her right. The busy backdrop of tropical flora reinforces problematic associations of fantasy and exoticism suggested by the masked figure. Simultaneously concealing and replacing her own image, Simmons allows her individual identity to dissolve into the cultural constructs and histories that each artefact and image holds.

Xaviera Simmons’s diverse body of work is committed to multiplicity. Eschewing linear notions of history, her approach to investigating such themes as the shifting notions surrounding landscape and the conditions of African American female experience are cyclical in nature. Her studio practice demonstrates a fidelity to no single artistic modality or creative process; rather, Simmons's interdisciplinary pursuits are in constant, active flux. Encompassing installation, photography, performance, and sound and video works, her evolving approach to artmarking is emblematic of the plurality of cultural experience and the myriad ways in which identity is constructed in contemporary culture.