Grant Recipients Grants to Artists Visual Arts 2015

Xaviera Simmons

Portrait of Xaviera Simmons with short dark hair, hoop earrings, and a chunky black sweater. Their fingers are interwoven.
Photo by Xaviera Simmons studio.

As a recipient of a Grants to Artists Award in 2015 I now live with a greater sense of creative acknowledgement as the award comes directly via the vision of artists and philanthropists whose own work I greatly admire. There are really few words to describe the positive affirmation I have felt having received the assistance and guidance from the Board of Directors; those whose own varied practices I reflect on a regular basis... I used a percentage of the funds... for a new work titled Continent: Dark Sound Blue, which premiered in Summer 2015... I could not have produced this work or commissioned the dancers paying them a fair hourly wage and also a handsome performance fee without the support of the Grant. Knowing that dancers are some of the most underpaid artists in the United Stated and with a strong desire to work with them, I have been extremely excited to fairly support the production of this new work. This, I believe, was one of the most important developments that came as a result of the Grant; the ability to pass the funds forward while collaborating with and supporting other artists in the process.

- Xaviera Simmons, December 2015

Artist Statement

My studio practice is focused on working concurrently within photography, performance, installation, sculpture, video, and sound. It is the cyclical and diverse nature of this type of practice that engages me the most, where one work, in one particular medium, gives breadth and depth to another medium. The consistency found in shifting the practice alongside the navigation of diverse materials, subject matters, and the physical landscape in general are what stimulate the scope of the projects produced.

The technical, physical, and mechanical applications of these diverse mediums in conjunction with an undercurrent of research techniques, non-linear narration, historical inquiries, and formal art historical concerns round out the work. It is my goal to produce works that benefit from conceptualization, craftsmanship, technical experimentation, and impulse in order to let the language of each form fall into and influence the others.

- December 2014


Xaviera Simmons is a visual and performance artist whose body of work spans photography, performance, video, sound, sculpture, and installation. She defines her studio practice, which is rooted in an ongoing investigation of experience, memory, abstraction, present and future histories––specifically shifting notions surrounding landscape, character development, and formal processes––as cyclical rather than linear. Simmons is committed equally to the examination of different artistic modes and processes. Simmons keeps her practice in constant and consistent rotation, shift, and engagement by dedicating part of a year to photography, another part to performance, and other parts to installation, video, and sound works.

Simmons' 2015 FCA grant supported a research trip to Iceland, during which she produced photographs that stand on their own and have been incorporated into new photographic compositions, video works, and choreographic performances. With funds from her Grants to Artists award, Simmons also hired professional dancers for a new film and sound work, Continent: Dark Sound Blue, which premiered at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in October 2015. She has since had solo exhibitions and screenings of her work at Lightwork, Syracuse; Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City; The Kitchen, New York City; and David Castillo Gallery, Miami Beach.

In 2015, Simmons' work was included in group exhibitions at the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston, the Aperture Foundation, Peréz Art Museum Miami, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Frieze Sounds (New York and London), Detroit Institute of the Arts, and The Rubell Family Collection. Simmons' The Gold Miner's Mission to Dwell on the Tide Line is now on view in The Museum of Modern Art's Modern Window. Prior to receiving her FCA grant, Simmons had presented solo exhibitions and performances at venues including Art in General (2006, 2010), the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (2008), the Studio Museum in Harlem (2010), David Castillo Gallery (2010, 2013), The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum (2013), the Museum of Modern Art (2013).

Prior to her 2015 Grants to Artists, Simmons was a recipient of a Jerome Foundation Travel and Study Grant (2007), a New York Community Trust Fellowship (2007), a David C. Driskell Prize from the High Museum in Atlanta (2008), and an Art Matters Fellowship (2009). Simmons received an FCA Emergency Grant in 2009, to defray the cost of materials and shipping to present three performance pieces at the Incheon Women Artist's Biennial in Incheon, Korea. In 2011 and 2012, she was an artist-in-residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem, a 2012 resident of the smARTpower Initiative by the U.S. Department of State and the Bronx Museum, and a 2013 participant in Artists Experiment at The Museum of Modern Art.

Simmons received her B.F.A. from Bard College in 2004 after spending two years on a walking pilgrimage retracing the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade with Buddhist Monks. She completed the Whitney Museum's Independent Study Program in Studio Art in 2005, while simultaneously completing a two-year actor-training conservatory with the Maggie Flanigan Studio. She has served as a visiting lecturer and critic in the Graduate Department of Sculpture at Yale University, and is currently on the Board of Directors at Spaceworks. In 2016 she was a Visiting Artist at The Vermont Studio Center and the University of California, Los Angeles Department of Art.

Collage sculpture of mixed materials including parrot-decorated fabric, floral tights, wooden statues, feathers, and crumpled glossy paper against a white backdrop.
FCA-supported Index Seven Composition Two, 2015. Color photograph, 65 x 50 inches. Courtesy the artist and David Castillo Gallery.
Three dancers aligned, bending and contracting, raising their hands towards their faces.
FCA-supported Number 21, 2015. Performance/Video Still, digital Video, TRT: 5:45 Minutes. Courtesy the artist and David Castillo Gallery.
Cacti and desert ground are blurred in front of an in-focus tan-colored granite rock structure and a white sky.
FCA-supported Sketches for a Choreographic Score, 2015. Color Photograph, 40 x 50 inches. Courtesy the artist and David Castillo Gallery.
Collage sculpture of mixed materials including bright-blue, orange, and yellow chevron-striped fabric, a wooden face mask, torn woven straw, and polaroids against a pitch black backdrop.
Index Four Composition Two, 2013, color photograph, 40" x 50."
Simmons staring straight-ahead, surrounded by people in a crowded room with yellow walls.
Number 14 (When A Group Of People Comes Together To Watch Someone Do Something), 2013, color photograph, dimensions variable.
Wall installation of collaged wooden planks with words and sentences such as
Wilderness, 2011, installation, found assorted wood, acrylic paint, metal screws, dimensions variable.
People appearing to be filmed in a room with paper balls on the floor, buckets and tubes of paint, and paint-splattered and text-pasted walls.
Performance still from Underscore, 2013, performance/installation/film, commissioned by The Aldrich Museum of Modern Art, materials and dimensions variable.
Two performers in bright red jumpsuits hold three signs: one with abstract lettering repeating
Performance still from Archive As Impetus (Not On View), 2013, site-specific performance, comissioned by The Museum of Modern Art, materials and dimensions variable.