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Ben Luke talks to Gary Simmons about his influences—from musicians to writers, film-makers, and, of course, other artists—and the cultural experiences that have shaped his life and work.

Gary Simmons’s Rogue Wave (2021)

Simmons, born in New York in 1964 and based in Los Angeles, is a significant figure in a generation of politically engaged, artistically ambitious US artists that emerged in the early 1990s. Gary explores the complexities of race and class through media including drawings on chalkboards, sculpture, installation, architectural environments and painting.

Installation view of Gary Simmons’s Reflection of a Future Past (2006) in1964 at Bohen Foundation, New York, New York

He draws on diverse references, including from pop culture like cartoons and sports, to create works that address systemic and enduring prejudice and the nature of memory. Gary’s language is deeply personal and informed by his own experiences but also calls on imagery with collective, if unstable, meanings.

Gary Simmons’s Step into the Arena (The Essentialist Trap) (1994)

• Gary Simmons: Public Enemy, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 13 June-1 October, Pérez Art Museum Miami, 5 December-24 April 2024.

• Gary Simmons: This Must Be the Place, Hauser & Wirth, London, until 29 July.

Installation view of Gary Simmons: Recapturing Memories of the Black Ark, 2014-15 at Prospect 3, New Orleans, Louisiana.

This podcast is sponsored by Bloomberg Connects, the arts and culture app.

The free app offers access to a vast range of international cultural organisations through a single download, with new guides being added regularly. They include numerous museums and galleries where Gary Simmons has shown his work, including the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and Somerset House in London. If you download the app, you will find that the Somerset House guide has a section of sound stories evoking the rich history of the architecture, people and events that have defined this celebrated cultural space. There’s also a section dedicated to the London Design Biennale taking place at Somerset House until 25 June.

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