Born in 1967 to Jamaican missionaries, Simone Leigh frequently rebelled against the austere belief system that she was brought up with on Chicago’s South Side. Escaping to Earlham College, a Quaker school in Indiana, she plunged into feminist theory and began expressing her ideas through clay. Leigh’s female forms—often combined with elements of African art, architecture, and ritual—lend cultural centrality to women and femmes across the African diaspora, and alive in her art are discourses both postcolonial and sociopolitical. Leigh’s largest sculptures can read like wordless manifestos. Indeed, at the Hirshhorn her breathtakingly scaled pieces—for instance, the 24-foot-tall Satellite (2022)—not only evoke the magnitude of Black female identity, but also the space Leigh herself occupies in the contemporary art world. The exhibition, co-curated with the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston, includes 40 works of installation, ceramics, video, and bronze. —Nyla Gilstrap
“Simone Leigh” travels to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and the California African American Museum (CAAM) in Los Angeles for a joint presentation (June 2024 – January 2025).