Lorna Simpson: Spilling, Breaking Waves

February 14, 2020–October 11, 2020

Spilling, Breaking Waves focuses on an important turn in artist Lorna Simpson’s (Brooklyn, NY) trajectory: the absence of the figure, especially in relation to landscape. The centerpiece of the exhibition, Standing in the Water, is a room-size multi-media installation comprising video, sound, and a silkscreen printed industrial felt floor sculpture. Made in 1994 in collaboration with FWM’s Studio, the piece consists of three felt panels (1 1⁄2 x 172 x 52 inches); glass panels etched with the image of untied shoes; an audio track of gentle water sounds (dripping, pouring from a spigot, a person climbing out of a bathtub); and two video works showing water in motion. Simpson’s inspiration for this piece was a photograph of waves from the scientific text An Album of Fluid Motion. With several hundred black-and-white photographs collected from around the world, the book is a rich source of illustrations serving to underscore the various ways motion and liquid can be portrayed.

To contextualize this pivotal move in the artist’s career, the following works are on loan from Simpson’s studio: The Rock (1995), The Car (1995), The Fire Escape (1995), and The Park (1995). The inclusion of text in these four works deepens our understanding of the artist’s application of narrative and offers an interesting counterpoint to Standing in the Water. Taken together, these works serve to illustrate how material choice contributed to a deep sense of interiority and introspection in Simpson’s work.


The Fabric Workshop and Museum

Second Floor

Art in This Exhibition

Artists in This Exhibition


Major support of FWM is provided by the Marion Boulton “Kippy” Stroud Foundation. FWM receives state art funding support through a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. Additional support is provided by The Philadelphia Cultural Fund, Agnes Gund, and the Board of Directors and Members of The Fabric Workshop and Museum.