press release

Simon Lee is proud to present a solo exhibition of Gary Simmons; the New York based artist’s first solo exhibition in London.

The act of erasure is central to the works of Gary Simmons. In his ‘erasure drawings’ Simmons creates compositions in white chalk on pigmented or slate- painted panels or in situ wall installations which he then partially expunges/erases by smudging the images with his hands. He often takes images from cartoons, films, pedagogical settings or musical sources that are identified with white American heritage. By erasing only layers or fragments of these images, the artist demonstrates the impossibility of eradicating racial and cultural stereotypes from our collective conscience.

Simmons borrows the title of the exhibition, The House of Pain, from the 1970s cult movie, The Island of Dr. Moreau. The movie is an adaptation of the 1896 science-fiction novel written by H.G. Wells that addresses issues of community, identity and Darwinism. The film portrays a mad scientist living on a secluded island who attempts to control nature by trying to create a master race of animal/human hybrids. Simmons is interested in the control of society and the inevitable chaos that follows it. He depicts the anarchy that erupts by the end of the movie when the man-imals revolt, kill the doctor and burn down his laboratory, The House of Pain, in a 15 meter wall drawing installation of the burning building. Both H.G. Wells’ novel and the film adaptation are premised on the notion that science is inherently limited and remind us that scientific theories are created by humans and therefore hold the potential for being flawed. Simmons sees the theories surrounding the relationship between skull size, intelligence and skull size and racial/gender identity in the 19th century as ideal examples of the frailty of science and thus they serve as the inspiration behind this exhibition. In the series of skull paintings, all of which are centred on these theories, the artist depicts images of skulls by applying white pigment on large scale canvases only to partially erase them, capturing a sense of ghost like motion and translucent vibrancy. Simmons’ grace of talent lies in his ability to transcend the controversy of his subject matter to create imagery of captivating beauty.

Gary Simmons lives in New York City. He graduated from the School of Visual Arts and received an MFA from Cal Arts in Los Angeles. A survey exhibition, organized by the MCA in Chicago and The Studio Museum of Harlem also traveled to Site Santa Fe, New Mexico. One-person exhibitions have been at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington D.C., the Lannan Foundation in Los Angeles, St. Louis Art Museum, the Kunsthaus Zurich and recently at the Bohen Foundation in New York. His work is currently included in the group show "Comic Abstraction: Image-Breaking, Image-Making" at MoMA, New York until June 11th, 2007.

Gary Simmons
House of Pain