“Simone Leigh: Sovereignty” is the title of the U.S. pavillon of La Biennale di Venezia 2022, where Leigh’s unique sculptural work explores and elevates ideas about a variety of themes such as history, race, gender and labor; she also creates and reclaimes powerful narratives of Black women and reflects the African diaspora, from 19th-century West African art to colonial history.
Her expansive set of work ranges between sculpture, video and performance, joining forms derived from vernacular architecture and the female body.
“Simone Leigh is one of the most gifted and respected artists working today. For the U.S. Pavilion, Leigh will create a series of new sculptures and installations that address what the artist calls an ‘incomplete archive’ of Black feminist thought, with works inspired by leading Black intellectuals. Her work insists on the centrality of Black female forms within the cultural sphere, and serves as a beacon in our moment,” said Eva Respini, Curator of the Exhibition.
Though Respini is not the only one to share this idea, as Jill Medvedow, one of the commissioners, is consolidating this sentiment by saying: “Over the course of two decades, Simone Leigh has created an indelible body of work that centers the experiences and histories of Black women and at such a crucial moment in history, I can think of no better artist to represent the United States”.
“In order to tell the truth, you need to invent what might be missing from the archive, to collapse time, to concern yourself with issues of scale, to formally move things around in a way that reveals something more true than fact.”
For the occasion Leigh’s presentation features a new series of figurative sculptures in bronze and ceramic, both outside and inside the Pavillon, extending the Artist’s inquiry into the recurrent theme of self determination.
Through her monuments and architectural interventions the artist is redefining notions of space, time, and existence.
In fact, the exhibition’s title Sovereignty is a statement of independence, for both the individual and the collective, and refers to the anti-colonialist goals that were central to the Négritude movement.
To be sovereign is to not be subject to another’s authority, but rather to be the author of one’s own history.
Even if Leigh’s figural works present their subjects as autonomous and self-sufficient, they do not simply celebrate the capacity of Black women to overcome oppressive circumstances, but rather indict the conditions that so often require them to affirm their own humanity.