My take on Leigh

By: Louk Vreeswijk

Oct 16 2022

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Category: Europe, Italy

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Simone Leigh is prominently present with her sculptures at the Venice Biennale. Her large bronze statue Brick House represents a black woman, her body shaped as a domed African clay house. Leigh applies this more often in her sculptures of women cast in bronze or made of glazed stoneware. It gives them a firm base and an impression of strength.

Simone Leigh, ‘Sentinel’, bronze, 2022, and glazed stoneware pieces, USA Pavilion, Biennale Venice 2022

In contrast, her tall bronze sculpture Sentinel portrays an extremely elongated female figure. In the picture we see it with a few large glazed stoneware sculptures in the background. The picture doesn’t show the head of Sentinel. In fact, in stead of a head Leigh has fixed a large bowl or dish on top of the female figure. I read somewhere that a Zulu ceremonial spoon may have inspired her to do this. There is another Leigh sculpture at the exhibition of a woman with an enormous dish as a head. Leigh will have her reasons for doing this, but the result doesn’t appeal to me. The big dish head of Sentinel is not just strange, it’s size is also out of proportion. It spoils the exquisite beauty of the elongated female form. That’s why I have left it out of my picture.
With Brick House Leigh has made another singular intervention. She hasn’t put eyes in the woman’s face. Not closed eyes, no eyes at all! This makes her appearance rather repulsive, which definitely must be Leigh’s intention. But again, for me it spoils the beauty of the otherwise impressive sculpture. As with Sentinel, I also have chosen my camera position for the Brick House picture with care.

Photo of the week: Simone Leigh, ‘Brick House’, bronze, 2019; Belkis Ayon, Sikan series of prints; Venice Biennale, Italy 2022

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