A storyteller and researcher driven by the mutability of fact and the documentary potential of fiction, Taryn Simon directs our attention to systems of organization—bloodlines, circulating picture collections, mourning rituals, ceremonial flower arrangements—revealing the structures of power and authority hidden within. Working in photography, sculpture, text, sound, performance, and installation, she traces lineages of objects, families, nations, and histories.
Launched in spring 2020 as a weekly platform, the Artist Spotlight series is now in its second season and is presented as a regular part of the gallery’s programming. Each Artist Spotlight highlights work by an individual artist, alongside new editorial features and selected archival content.
Artist Spotlight: Taryn Simon features a new work by the artist. For more information, please contact the gallery at email@example.com.
Photo: Brigitte Lacombe
Taryn Simon and Teju Cole
This spring, as part of the Lambert Family Lecture Series at the Wexner Center for the Arts, Taryn Simon joined Teju Cole for an online conversation about her artistic practice and creative process.
Taryn Simon: An Occupation of Loss
In Taryn Simon’s performance work An Occupation of Loss (2016), professional mourners enact rituals of grief, simultaneously broadcasting their lamentations from within a sculptural installation. This video by filmmaker Boris B. Bertram documents the April 2018 performance of this work with Artangel in Islington, London.
From Mortal Bodies to Immortal Crowds
Two immersive installations by Taryn Simon presented at MASS MoCA in 2018–19 examined the rituals of cold-water plunges and applause. Text by Angela Brown.
Obscuring the Index
Taryn Simon’s 2016 exhibitions spanned the globe. Angela Brown brings us highlights from six museums.
The New York Public Library’s Picture Collection
Joshua Chuang, the Robert B. Menschel Senior Curator of Photography at the New York Public Library, discusses the institution’s singular Picture Collection, the artist Taryn Simon’s rigorous engagement with it, and four instances of its little-known role in the history of art making.
Cast of Characters
James Lawrence explores how contemporary artists have grappled with the subject of the library.
The Color of a Flea’s Eye: The Picture Collection
July 14–September 11, 2021
976 Madison Avenue, New York
Paperwork and the Will of Capital
February 18–March 26, 2016
555 West 24th Street, New York
Taryn Simon’s Cutaways (2012) is available online from June 23 through July 22 as part of Artist Spotlight: Taryn Simon. At the close of the taping of a video interview for Prime Time Russia in Moscow, Simon was asked to sit in silence and stare at the newscasters for several minutes so that the producers could gather additional footage for the editing process. Cutaways presents this footage as an autonomous work.
Taryn Simon, Cutaways, 2012 © Taryn Simon
Taryn Simon’s large-scale outdoor sculpture The Pipes (2016–21) will be on long-term view at MASS MoCA, in North Adams, Massachusetts, starting on June 26, 2021. What began as an oversize concrete instrument for a cacophony of global mourning in Simon’s work An Occupation of Loss (2016) will be populated by the sounds, collective call-and-response, and movements of a living public. The eleven structures that make up the installation—which Simon designed in collaboration with Shohei Shigematsu of the architecture firm OMA—offer the public an immersive experience and a sacred space for reflection, impromptu performance, and stargazing.
View of Taryn Simon’s The Pipes (2016–21) prior to installation at MASS MoCA, North Adams, Massachusetts. Artwork © Taryn Simon. Photo: Will McLaughlin, courtesy MASS MoCA
Taryn Simon on “Black Square”
In this video produced by Artforum, Taryn Simon discusses her Black Square series (2006–), an ongoing project in which she photographs objects, documents, and individuals against a black field of precisely the same dimensions as Kazimir Malevich’s 1915 Suprematist work of the same name. Simon also speaks about the most recent addition to the series, Black Square XXIV (2020)—a portrait of Joe Biden, whom she photographed at the White House during the first term of his vice presidency, in 2009. Speaking in the days leading up to the 2020 US presidential election, she notes how this still-unfolding event had changed and would continue to change the ways we might view this image.
Still from “Taryn Simon on ‘Black Square’”
Taryn Simon in
Future Food: Essen für die Welt von morgen
Through August 22, 2021
Deutsches Hygiene-Museum, Dresden, Germany
This exhibition, whose title translates to Future Food: What Will We Eat Tomorrow?, investigates the political, ethical, and cultural significance of eating. This interdisciplinary show features works of contemporary art that address one of the most urgent questions of our time: “How will we—and can we—feed ourselves in the future?” Work by Taryn Simon is included.
Taryn Simon, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Contraband Room, John F. Kennedy International Airport, Queens, New York, 2007, from the series An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar, 2007 © Taryn Simon
Taryn Simon in
Send Me an Image: From Postcards to Social Media
Through September 2, 2021
C/O Berlin Foundation
This exhibition considers photography’s transformation from an illustrative medium to one of society’s most significant means of communicating today. The photographs and projects on view illuminate phenomena such as censorship, surveillance, and algorithmic regulation, which affect human activities in our data-driven era. Work by Taryn Simon is included.
Taryn Simon and Aaron Swartz, Image Atlas (2012), installation view, C/O Berlin Foundation © Taryn Simon. Photo: David von Becker
Reflection, Resilience, and Resistance in the Art of Our Time
Through March 20, 2022
Brooklyn Museum, New York
The Slipstream draws examples from Brooklyn Museum’s contemporary art collection to contemplate the profound disruption that occurred in 2020. Borrowing its title from an aeronautical term that refers to the pull of the current that is left in the wake of a large and powerful object, the exhibition examines the placement and displacement of power that runs through American history and continues today. The show features more than sixty works by multiple generations of artists from the 1960s to the present day, including Titus Kaphar and Taryn Simon.
Taryn Simon, Press XL, from the series Paperwork and the Will of Capital, 2015, Brooklyn Museum, New York © Taryn Simon
The Color of a Flea’s Eye: The Picture Collection
September 1, 2021–February 27, 2022
New York Public Library
A project nine years in the making, The Color of a Flea’s Eye foregrounds the New York Public Library’s Picture Collection, whose storied images have been available, for more than a century, for the public to sift through in search of visual references of every conceivable kind. Intrigued by the Picture Collection since childhood, in 2012 Taryn Simon embarked on a study of its underlying patterns, codes, and orders. Her photography of its contents reveals it to be an inadvertent recorder of changing social mores, disclosing latent fault lines of power, race, and gender.
Installation view, Taryn Simon: The Color of a Flea’s Eye: The Picture Collection, New York Public Library, 2020. Artwork © Taryn Simon. Photo: Rob McKeever