National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Two Pairs Lorna Simpson (artist)
American, born 1960
Graphicstudio, U.S.F. (publisher)
Two Pairs, 1997
photogravure on handmade Richard de Bas paper
plate: 31.4 x 48.3 cm (12 3/8 x 19 in.) sheet: 51.8 x 67.6 cm (20 3/8 x 26 5/8 in.)
Gift of Graphicstudio/University of South Florida and the Artist
Not on View
From the Tour: African American Artists: Collection Highlights
Object 17 of 22

Artistically speaking, those with power are usually those who assign a subject's identity. And once such identity has been given, it accumulates historical authority as years, decades, and centuries ensue. Central to this phenomenon is the role of gaze—the idea that the viewer has the power to define what she/he sees. In the art of our times, however, the authority of gaze has been tested and upended. Here, Lorna Simpson weighs in.

The artist presents two binoculars and between them, a series of phrases. You might pick up one of these looking devices—perhaps to spy?—and thus see what the text haltingly, disjointedly describes. But Simpson has placed the binoculars face down, simultaneously promising and frustrating vision. Text and binoculars each furnish only partial knowledge, underscoring the inherent problem of relying on only written or visual information to understand a person or situation. Simpson has examined the relationship between text and image over many years, challenging concepts of truth, history, and identity. Here, gaze is thwarted by its instruments, knowledge is crippled by incompleteness. You may assign meaning to this image, but Simpson reminds: it is not necessarily correct.

can see the moisture of her breath while she sings—an interior wall blocks the view of the other—can see the badge #'s—full moon perfect light—undressed completely and got into the tub to his left—motionless—kept a log of observations—curvaceous—went unnoticed by the naked eye—tried to hold in view—just shadows—near sighted—gruesome—remembered everything—right in the line of vision—they moved three steps back and out of view

Full Screen Image
Artist Information (Deli Sacilotto)
Artist Information (Graphicstudio, U.S.F.)
Artist Information (Lorna Simpson)
Artist Information (Tom Pruitt)

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