Lorna Simpson's 9 Props: Deconstructing Photographic Portraiture
Lorna Simpson's artworks are generally discussed in terms of race, gender and stylistic shifts. Without ignoring these perspectives, it is important to consider the artist's challenge to the photographic medium itself in a postmodern context. My investigation into Simpson's oeuvre focuses on one artwork, 9 Props (1995) to demonstrate how she has challenged, or deconstructed previous norms of photographic portraiture. This thesis outlines several approaches to Simpson's work, including critical theories of photography, as well as post-colonial and feminist methodologies. By contextualizing 9 Props within the larger scope of the theoretical inquiries about photography, this text makes Simpson's challenge more apparent. In 9 Props, Simpson surprisingly eliminates images of people and instead creates photographic metonyms, the glass objects accompanied by textual descriptions of absent figures. Simpson seems to be asking the question: "To what extent can portraiture be understood and still regarded as such without its usual signifiers?"