Raid the Icebox Now with Simone Leigh
The Chorus reflects artist Simone Leigh’s commitment to sculpturally shaping and defining the presence and voices of women of color throughout history. A sound installation plays in each gallery the exhibition occupies. In it, artists, writers, curators, and historians read texts written by women of color: Saidiya Hartman’s essay “Manual for General Housework” (2019), sculptor Nancy Elizabeth Prophet’s diaries from her time in Paris (1922–1934), and new text created for this project by historian Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts. This multiplicity of voices alludes to the chorus found in ancient Greek drama. It also suggests Hartman’s description of the chorus as “all the unnamed young women of the city trying to find a way to live and in search of beauty.” The readings contemplate the experiences and torments of people of color—particularly women—engaged in manual labor willingly or under varying degrees of duress. This exploration continues with the presentation of new figurative work by Leigh and sculptures from the museum collection by Nancy Elizabeth Prophet, Janine Antoni, and Huma Bhabha in the ancient Greek and Roman galleries and a work by David Hammons in the Egyptian gallery. Together, they consider approaches artists have shared over thousands of years and question how instances of colonialism and cultural imperialism seen in ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome continue to frame contemporary experiences.
The soundwork in this installation includes mature, racially charged language that directly conveys the intense personal experiences of the women of color who wrote it.
Simone Leigh lives and works in New York. Her sculptures, installations, videos, and performances address the complex realities and challenges of contemporary women of color internationally, in a manner that is both critical and analytical, heroic and celebratory. Leigh’s practice is also characterized by a rigorous investment in and dynamic reconsideration of the process of making objects or staging situations, experimenting with new mediums and approaches to give the social, historical, and political themes and explorations in her work an even greater impact.
Raid the Icebox Now is made possible by a lead grant from the National Endowment for the Arts with additional support from the RISD Museum Associates, Pace Gallery, Taylor Box Company, and a generous in-kind gift from Meyer Sound Laboratories.
RISD Museum is supported by a grant from the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, through an appropriation by the Rhode Island General Assembly and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, and with the generous partnership of the Rhode Island School of Design, its Board of Trustees, and Museum Governors.