'Soundlessness,' 2016 (Courtesy of Lorna Simpson and Salon 94

‘Soundlessness,’ 2016 (Courtesy of Lorna Simpson and Salon 94

Lorna Simpson is returning to Salon 94 for her third exhibition at the Bowery gallery. The Brooklyn-born artist became well-known in the mid-’80s for her large-scale works combining photography and textual elements with watercolor, ink, or acrylic paint, and creating nuanced statements on contemporary society’s perception of race, gender, and identity. Her show at Salon 94, opening September 8, will feature a number of paintings that premiered in the 55th Venice Biennale.

Simpson’s work often utilizes photo-collage techniques to create layered portraits of African-American women, and sometimes men, that present them in isolated, and sometimes distorted environments. She began working in the style of a street photographer, simply documenting the figures and spaces around her and then layering them with text and other visual elements. In this way, she created a “free association”-style image, in which snippets of overheard conversation or news reports interacted with the images.

Her film-noirish photo series “Public Sex,” on the other hand, had no figures at all, and simply depicted city spaces – parks, a bench, a random building – juxtaposed with blocks of suggestively printed dialogue.

Later, she also began working with film, and created haunting film installations like “Cloudscape” (2004), which featured a lone male figure whistling an unidentified folk tune as a slow fog gathers around him, obscures him from sight, then clears again.

At Salon 94, Simpson’s exhibition will feature printed photographs, ink and acrylic on multi­paneled clayboard to make monumental and mid­size paintings. Among the pieces will be “Soundlessness,” from 2016, which shows a black female figure walking up the stairs of an office-like interior.

Other pieces include “Enumerated,” also from 2016. It rises 12 feet high and features hundreds of images of nails clustered in groups of five, which ends up resembling the tally marks scratched on to prison walls­ to record the number of days in captivity.

Her photographic collages, which will also form a significant part of the exhibit, use vintage Associated Press photographs from the late ’30s through the ’70s, as well as images from the pages of Ebony and Jet magazines of the same era.

Salon 94 Bowery is located at 243 Bowery near Stanton Street and is open from Tuesday through Saturday, 11 AM – 6 PM. Lorna Simpson’s exhibition will be on display from September 8 until October 22.