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Gary Simmons on how his artwork ‘forces you to go down certain parts of memory lane’

Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times
 2022-04-22
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Artist Gary Simmons (Tito Molina / from Gary Simmons and Hauser & Wirth )

On April 9, under a blistering sun, poet Yesika Salgado recited tender odes to her childhood and scorching takedowns of former lovers in between passionate Spanish-language verses belted by balladeer San Cha. The two L.A.-based acts were the latest artists to perform in the Black Ark series, a slate of free, public, live events set in the outdoor courtyard of the Hauser & Wirth gallery complex.

Salgado’s poems delved into a lifetime of memories, making for a perfect complement to the work of artist Gary Simmons, whose sculptural installation “Recapturing Memories of the Black Ark” serves as the event stage. By the end of the performance, Simmons stood on the front row, applauding fervently.

“It was amazing! It was so hard-hitting,” he says. “This is exactly what I wanted to have happen on the Ark. That’s what the Ark represents: Do your thing!”

He created the circulating performance space in 2014, using scrap materials found in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. During the work’s early 2022 residency in the Arts District courtyard, dance icon Savion Glover has tapped across the wooden stage and Simmons’ teenage daughter delivered an original monologue. The program for April 24 is a Monday Evening Concerts performance of Tyshawn Sorey‘s composition tributing experimental music luminary George Lewis. And for the May 21 series finale, KCRW’s Elvis Mitchell will join Simmons onstage for a Q&A.

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