Xaviera Simmons

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Xaviera Simmons
Xaviera Simmons at Performing History at Columbia GSAPP (cropped).jpg
Born 1974
New York, NY
Nationality American
Education Bard College
Known for Photography
Conceptual art
Movement Contemporary art
Awards David C. Driskell Prize (2008)

Xaviera Simmons (born 1974) is an American contemporary artist. She is a descendant of African American slaves, European American colonizers and early Indigenous Americans. Her body of work spans photography, performance, video, sound, sculpture, and installation.[1] Her studio practice is rooted in an ongoing investigation of sensory experience, memory, and abstraction within present and future histories—specifically shifting notions surrounding landscape—as cyclical versus linear. Simmons is committed to the examination of different artistic modes and processes; she may dedicate part of a year to photography, another part to performance, and other parts to installation, video, and sound work.


Simmons received her BFA from Bard College in 2004, studying under An-My Lê, Larry Fink (photographer), Mitch Epstein, Luc Sante, and Stephen Shore. She completed the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Independent Study Program in Studio Art in 2005, while simultaneously completing a two-year actor-training conservatory with The Maggie Flanigan Studio.[2] Simmons's work has been exhibited at international institutions including Museum of Modern Art (New York), MoMA PS1 (Long Island City, New York), Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, Studio Museum in Harlem (New York), Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, Walker Art Center (Minneapolis), the Pérez Art Museum Miami, and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston.[3] In 2017, Simmons will have a solo exhibition of her work at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University.[4] To complement her practice as a visual artist, Simmons has also studied aspects of midwifery and herbalism.


Xaviera Simmons: Coded (2016)[edit]

Coded was a survey exhibition at The Kitchen.[5] In relation to the exhibition, Simmons also created a performance work that uses archival materials and resources to explore queer history, homoeroticism, and Jamaican dancehall culture.[6][7]

Xaviera Simmons: Underscore (2013–14)

Drawing on Simmons's practice as a multidisciplinary artist, Underscore was staged at The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, where she presented two photographs, a slide installation, and a site-specific performance titled Number 17. Each of these components drew upon elements of both live and recorded music: the photographs Warm Leatherette (2009) and Horse (2009) used familiar LP covers as masks for her characters, the slide installation Into the Rehearsal were digitzed manipulations of low-resolution images from Jamaican dance-hall footage (the popular form of dance called daggering is specifically referenced) pooled from the Internet, and Number 17 transformed the museum's Opatrny Gallery into a space for Simmons to construct improvised visual/sound performances coupled with high-endurance practices and action painting.[8]

Archive As Impetus: Artists Experiment (2013)

Simmons was a participant in the Artists Experiment series at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. She acted as both artist and archivist, tracing the museum's own history, while extracting and reinstating examples of political action through gesture.[9]

Index Series (2013)

Simmons's Index series captured images of quasi-human torsos oriented at eye level: these forms were composed of ephemera such as rosaries, postcards, crushed photographs, and jewelry scraps, funneled into pairs of blue jeans and printed leggings.[10] These works are, effectively, stills of constructed bodies bearing traces of the real world, but inhabiting a unique space just beyond it. They are archives channeled into a body, reflecting the actual body's ability to document and store away memory and experience.

Thundersnow Road (2010)

Commissioned by the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University as part of their 2010 exhibition The Record: Contemporary Art and Vinyl, Simmons collaborated with a group of artists to produce a hybrid landscape photography-music installation. Simmons traveled and explored the varying topographies of North Carolina over a ten-day period; the images she took would serve as "album covers" for songs recorded by artists such as My Morning Jacket's Jim James, Superchunk's Mac McCaughan, and TV On the Radio members Kyp Malone, Tunde Adebimpe, and Jaleel Bunton. Durham-based record label Merge Records served as the music producer.[11]

Bronx As Studio (2008)

Public Art Fund's program for emerging artists, In the Public Realm, commissioned Simmons to produce a three-week project in June 2008, using the streets of the Bronx as a space for sidewalk games, classic photographic portraiture, and performance art. Passersby were encouraged to participate in various activities including hopscotch, soapbox speaking, chess, and Double Dutch. Simmons provided props and background elements, against which all of the publics' spontaneous activities were recorded. Color portraits were sent directly back to participants, as a way of completing the process of active, creative participation.[12]

Residences and fellowships[edit]

  • Grant To Artist Award, Foundation for Contemporary Art, New York, NY (2015)
  • Visiting Lecturer/Critic, Graduate Department of Sculpture, Yale University, New Haven, CT (2013)
  • smARTpower Initiative, U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C. (2012)
  • Artist-In-Residence, Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY (2011-2012)
  • Residency, Center For Contemporary Art (Futura), Prague, CZ (2010)
  • Emergency Grant, Foundation For Contemporary Arts, New York, NY (2009)
  • Art Matters Fellowship, Art Matters, New York, NY (2009)
  • The David C. Driskell Prize, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA (2008)
  • Artist-In-Residence, Light Work, Syracuse, New York (2008)
  • In The Public Realm, The Public Art Fund, New York, NY (2008)
  • Artist-In-Residence, Art Omi, Ghent, NY (2008)
  • Urban Artist Initiative, New York, NY (2008)
  • The New York Community Trust Fellowship, New York, NY (2007)
  • Jerome Foundation Travel and Study Grant (2007)
  • Workspace Residency, The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, New York, NY (2007)
  • Artist-In-Residence, the Center for Photography at Woodstock, Woodstock, NY (2006)
  • New Commissions, Art In General, New York, NY (2006)
  • Acadia Summer Art Program (Kippy Kamp), Acadia, ME (2005)
  • Artist-In-Residence, Jamaica Center For Arts and Learning, Jamaica, NY (2005)
  • Creative Capital/Aljira: Emerge 7, Newark, NJ (2005)
  • Visible Knowledge Program (VKP) Artist/Educator, The New Museum, New York, NY (2005)
  • Cave Canem Poets Fellow, New York, NY (2002)

Selected collections[edit]


External links[edit]