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Simone Leigh: Loophole of Retreat

Simone Leigh, detail of trophallaxis, 2017, terracotta, porcelain, epoxy, graphite, gold and platinum glazes, and antennas.

Loophole of Retreat presents a new body of work by Simone Leigh, winner of the Hugo Boss Prize 2018, an award for significant achievement in contemporary art. The exhibition’s title is drawn from the writings of Harriet Jacobs (1813–1897), a formerly enslaved abolitionist who pseudonymously published an account of her life. It refers to the grueling seven years she spent hiding from her master in a tiny crawl space beneath the rafters of her grandmother’s home—an act of astonishing fortitude that carved out a space of sanctuary and autonomy in defiance of an unjust reality. Over the course of a career that spans sculpture, video, and social practice, Leigh has continuously and insistently centered the black female experience. Her forms, rendered in materials such as ceramic, raffia, and bronze, unify a timeless beauty with valences that are both deeply personal and piercingly political. Summoning the ancient archetype of the female nude and inflecting it with vernacular and folk traditions, the artist merges the human body with domestic vessels or architectural elements, evoking the labors of care and protection that have historically fallen to women. Encompassing a suite of sculptures and a sound installation, as well as a text by the renowned historian Saidiya Hartman, Loophole of Retreat explores narratives of communal nurture, resilience, and resistance.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a daily program presenting films by Simone Leigh and Madeleine Hunt-Ehrlich.

Founded in 1996, the Hugo Boss Prize is a biennial award administered by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum that honors significant achievement in contemporary art. Leigh was selected from a list of finalists by a jury of international curators and critics chaired by Nancy Spector, Artistic Director and Jennifer and David Stockman Chief Curator, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation.