80 Washington Square East, NYU

Diane Simpson

Window Dressing

January 26 – March 12, 2014

Broadway Windows

Window Dressing was a site specific installation by Chicago-based artist Diane Simpson.

Diane Simpson is best known for her preparatory drawings and sculptures, which combine unconventional materials including fiberboard, perforated metals, faux fur, linoleum, and corrugated cardboard. Window Dressing pays homage to the “window dressers” of the 1920’s and 1930’s through the creation of a sprawling installation that is designed to exist in a series of inaccessible storefront windows and be viewed entirely by pedestrian traffic. Simpson’s conception of the project stemmed from her discovery of a 1928 bound collection of monthly trade journals for window designers, entitled MERCHANTS RECORD AND SHOW WINDOW. This publication, itself a manual containing how-to articles on designing merchandise display windows, advertisements for fixtures, mannequins, and artificial foliage, became repurposed as a sourcebook for her contemporary practice. Simpson finds endless possibility and inspiration in the window display format, which allows her to seamlessly integrate her sculptural works that are suggestive of clothing with backgrounds that evoke design of the deco period. The layering of these many components, comprising the complete installation, reflect the artist’s continued interest in blurring the distinctions between architecture, clothing, and design of various cultures and historical periods.

80WSE’s presentation of Window Dressing will be the second incarnation of the project, which was originally commissioned and installed in the six street-level windows of Wisonsin’s Racine Art Museum in 2008. For this version, Simpson has substantially reconfigured the installation, much in the way that traditional window displays exist as an ever-changing arrangement. As was the case with the window spaces in which Window Dressing was first shown, the original life of 80WSE’s window spaces was amidst a bustling department store district on lower Broadway in the late 1920’s. With each presentation of this project, Simpson seeks to transcend common notions of site specificity, instead facilitating a homecoming in which her work and the space collapse the past and the present.

Diane Simpson received an MFA in 1978 and a BFA in 1971 from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Recent solo exhibitions include JTT, New York and Corbett vs. Dempsey, Chicago. In 2010, a 30-year retrospective exhibition of her sculpture and drawings was held at the Chicago Cultural Center.

A cheetah print smock like textile is hanging and draped over a small brown table structure. This is placed on top of a tan colored round pedestal that is lined and divided into three visible sections with red lines. Behind the garment are granite like slabs of backdrops and tan boarding geometrically divided by red lines in the same fashion as the pedestal.
Starting from the bottom and going about one fourth of the way up the window is a black and white checkered board that’s top is cut out to leave geometric shapes. In the middle of these cutouts is a teal lined standing mirror-like form. This form is not reflective and instead its surface is simply gray within the teal outline. To the right of this structure is a  hanging upside down gray and teal cut out of a building’s skyline. To the left of the mirror like structure is a teal stand with a black top that has a black and white triangular sculpture placed on it.
The window is broken into different geometric cut out shapes. The two outer thirds of the window are filled with a rectangular mesh like board that is lined with teal and broken up by alternating teal and black circle quarters. In the middle of the window is a triangle that is broken into three triangles that get subsequently smaller. The tallest is a light brown, the middle is white, and the smallest is black. The top tips of each of the triangles has a smaller triangle that is tan with colored circles on it. In front of the smallest black triangle is a rounded paddle-like cream colored cutout.
 The outer two thirds of the window have a gridded  cream colored rectangular board placed in them with a half circle cut out from their top outer edges. The middle third features a cream colored rectangle with a repeated flower pattern printed on it in gray. In the middle of this middle rectangle is a circle cutout of the gridded rectangle board from the outer two thirds of the window space. In front of the middle patterned cutout is a tan wooden sculpture of the silhouette of a dress with a deep V neck, swooped shoulder line and pleated skirt.