Diane Simpson’s exhibition at JTT in New York, “Point of View,” is filled with oblique allusions to architectural details: a banister, a roof, a townhouse window. One sculpture, Two Point Enclosure (2020), distinguishes itself precisely because the referent for its distorted form is pleasantly unclear. One of three works Simpson produced for this show from drawings made between 1980 and 1981, at the outset of her late-blooming career, Enclosure was originally realized as part of a series of cardboard sculptures, though it was never exhibited.
For this iteration, the artist chose the sturdier but equally utilitarian particle board. As with all of Simpson’s sculptures, the work is meticulously crafted but also casually homespun: here, in addition to leaving process markings visible, she added subtle tints of color and vertical bands of graphite and colored pencil. That Enclosure was designed for cardboard is evident in its interlocking panels, seemingly collapsible or easily disassembled: two parallel sloping and peaked forms, which resemble a stairwell or a gable roof, are bisected by perpendicular segments to form a trough-like container that hovers above the ground. Poised on two pointed front legs, the sculpture appears powerful from certain angles, and from others, precarious. Whatever the sculpture’s source, it has been entirely transformed.
Simpson’s process—progressing from source images to detailed axonometric drawings to sculptures—is full of such transformations. Yet the perspective Simpson achieves in the two drawings of Enclosure on view here is so literally transcribed to the three-dimensional form that the sculpture is more like a drawing in space, possessing a disorienting and skewed flatness despite its depth. It is drawing, then, that emerges as the crucial aspect of this sculptor’s practice, the initial site of translation, wherein she transforms the commonplace into something more beguiling.
By including the original drawings and the new version of this forty-year-old sculpture in her exhibition, Simpson provides historical context for the other, more recent works on view, while drawing attention to a body of work that was woefully under-recognized in its time. What could be seen as a regressive act, revising old work, is ultimately one of reclamation.