Lorna Simpson is an African-American photographer and multimedia artist whose works have received national and international acclaim.
The displayed photo series, "9 Props" combines a nod from Simpson to a photographic predecessor (James VanDer Zee) and a challenge of preconceived notions of portraiture. The series uses vases and bowls based on props from the portraits of James VanDer Zee and makes the props the subjects, moving the subjects of VanDer Zee's portraits to the periphery with text descriptions at the bottom of each image that explain the original photos.
Lorna Simpson was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in 1985, and in 1990, she became the first African-American woman to exhibit at the Venice Biennale, alongside numerous others. Her prolific and impactful oeuvre has been displayed at the Museum of Modern Art, the National Gallery of Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, among others.
James VanDer Zee’s work is noted for its pioneering depiction of middle-class African-American life. The majority of his works were portraits of the lifestyles that surrounded him: weddings, funerals, teams, and clubs, among other things. However his popularity during the era also brought him famous clients such as activist Marcus Garvey, entertainer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, and poet Countee Cullen.