Lorna Simpson, III (Three Wishbones in a Wood Box), and Gary Simmons’, Can’t See Straight, works are dissimilar in appearance. But they unite in concept. Both tap into a human yearning: to believe a wish could be fulfilled.
Simpson’s presentation is potent, but aloof. An orderly arrangement of seven wishbones in three vertical rows, invites a cool intellectual assessment from viewers. Seven large furcular, forked bones that fuse the two clavicles together in birds (and some dinosaurs) giving them the ability to fly, evoke, for many Americans, roasted turkeys at a family holiday. Memories of who could grab the wishbone first, and make a wish with it, must spring to mind for many viewers. In the first column, the artist spells out her theme: Wish #1, Wish #2, Wish #3, the classic genie’s grouping of three. The viewer begins to wonder, What do I most desire? What would I rank first, second and third? During this time of pandemic, most us probably daily wish for deliverance.
As opposed to this clinical, staged process, Gary Simmons’ piece hits a viewer in the gut. One of the most wrenching and, at the same time, appealing concepts to a person is Simmons’ theme: home. In active gestural strokes, Simmons erases a dark covering to partially reveal dream-like architecture. Simmons’ arm and hand repeatedly swept back and forth, vigorously uncovering a complex, orderly and beautiful house, a primal human craving. Because most people probably don’t possess an ideal home, many viewers are left with a nostalgic urge to possess one. From Simmons’ constructed bits of reality, one can imagine a balcony here, an implied roofline there, a portico above an entry on the first floor. The artist seems to invite us to fill in the details of our desires.
For both Simpson and Simmons, the wish and its potential fulfillment remain out of reach, just as a solution to the current pandemic remains elusive. Simpson introduces the idea of aspirations that may never be articulated. Simmons’ fragmented home is abstract and seems unattainable. Both artists express unfulfilled longing, leaving the viewer to experience its compelling allure.
We all remember the normal life we used to have which is now unachievable.