Gary Simmons: The Engine Room

Gary Simmons: The Engine Room

Henry Art Gallery at University of Washington

Gary Simmons, B Sides (detail), 2021. Chalk paint, cold wax, and oil on canvas. Courtesy of the artist.

April 9, 2021
Gary Simmons
The Engine Room
April 3–August 22, 2021
Henry Art Gallery at University of Washington
15th Ave. NE & NE 41st St.
Seattle, WA 98195
United States
Hours: Thursday 10am–7pm,
Friday–Sunday 10am–5pm

T +1 206 543 2280

Gary Simmons: The Engine Room is now on view at the Henry Art Gallery. The exhibition features newly commissioned works and will be activated through a range of virtual programs. 

The work of Gary Simmons (b. 1964, New York, NY) explores racial, social, and cultural politics, and examines the ways in which we attempt to reconstruct the past via personal and collective memory. Simmons’s practice has evolved over the past three decades to incorporate painting, sculpture, installation, and interactive architectural environments. His work is occupied by the unfixed nature of an African-American past that remains open to the vagaries of memory—what was revealed, what was remembered, and what has been hidden—through pop cultural imagery from sports, music, film, and cartoons. In particular, music and music history figure prominently in this presentation, refracted through the lens of racial identity and representation.

For this commissioned exhibition, Simmons created a large-scale wall painting, a suite of new paintings and sculptures, and a sculptural installation, drawing together disparate components to create space for new interaction and invention. The wall painting riffs on the artist’s characteristic “erasure drawings,” in which he uses sprayed and physically manipulated chalk on blackboard paint to create ghostly images—in this case, of the lesser-known recordings of Jimi Hendrix 45rpm records—the titular B-Sides. Over many years of research, Simmons has collected and archived band and concert posters from cities around the world in which he has worked (including additions from Seattle music history), digitally reshaping and recomposing them, then adding another layer of physical intervention as the resulting printed pieces are collaged, rotated, ripped, and painted onto panels. 

The posters become a single giant painting installation on the interior of the architectural sculpture, Garage Band, which recalls a schematic of a typical suburban garage, a space that evokes a site of creation, invention, and experimentation—from casual tinkering to the genesis of major music movements and tech innovations. As the exhibition title, The Engine Room, suggests, the installation will function as a generative, interactive space. As both a private laboratory and a public stage drawing on diverse historical and present-day areas of the Seattle music scene, Garage Band will be activated by a series of musician residencies over the run of the exhibition tapping into influential genres and practices that are nonetheless atypically associated with the popular conception of the Seattle music scene. 

The Engine Room residencies are co-organized by the Henry and LANGSTON, an arts & culture organization that guides generative programs and community partnerships centering Black art, artists, and audiences and honors the ongoing legacy of Seattle’s Black Central Area. May residents are The Black Tones; June resident is Ishmael Butler of Shabazz Palaces and Digable Planets; and July features several artists in a build-a-band residency that revives the “Jambalaya” improvisational and experimental jam sessions of Seattle music’s recent past.

Gary Simmons earned a BFA from the School of Visual Arts, New York and a MFA from the California Institute of the Arts. He is the recipient of the Joyce Alexander Wein Prize, Studio Museum in Harlem; USA Gund Fellowship; Penny McCall Foundation Grant; and Interarts Grant, National Endowment for the Arts. Simmons has exhibited nationally and internationally, including solo exhibitions at the California African American Museum, Los Angeles; Perez Art Museum, Miami; Museum of Modern Art of Fort Worth; and Kunsthaus Zürich; as well as myriad group exhibitions including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; and the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, among others. His work is included in major museum collections across the globe including those of the Philadelphia Museum of Art; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, D.C.

Gary Simmons: The Engine Room is organized by Shamim M. Momin, Director of Curatorial Affairs, and commissioned with the generous support of John and Shari Behnke. Media sponsorship provided by KEXP.

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Henry Art Gallery at University of Washington
April 9, 2021

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