Crisis Makes a Book Club is a comprehensive exhibition of Xaviera Simmons’ formal practice including photography, painting, video, sculpture, and installation. Featuring new monumental projects, Simmons examines how the conditions of the United States’ empire and the art industry are shaped by the construction of whiteness, labor politics, and institutional failures that are both intentional and deep-rooted.
Simmons addresses these histories by drawing throughlines between European art historical forms, language, landscape, and photography as a witness. Towering figures, video, and animations occupy chromatically coordinated gallery spaces. Large scale photographs of sculpturally composed flowers and plants encircle a monolithic black structure covered with text hand-painted by the artist. Inside, images of various landscapes are shown on a set of seven monitors that line the structure’s warmly-colored interior walls. Together with a billboard-sized vinyl graphic on the Museum’s facade, Simmons’ works tether form to sensuality, desire, and movement to underscore white American dominance and capitalism as intertwined mechanisms that uphold the vast reach of the United States’ empire. The framework of the exhibition includes critical language that directly amplifies the need for action in lieu of representation as an indicator of change. This political and rigorous discourse is accompanied by moments of pause and respite offered by the sensuality of colors, nature, and landscape.