Exhibitions

Overlay: Exhibition by Xaviera Simmons

Courtesy of Xaviera SimmonsCourtesy of Xaviera Simmons

This exhibition opens on Wednesday, April 26, 2017, and runs through Saturday, July 1, 2017.

It will be on view in the Johnson-Kulukundis Family Gallery of Byerly Hall at 8 Garden Street, Radcliffe Yard, Monday through Saturday, from noon to 5 p.m. The gallery will be open on Sunday, May 14.

Free and open to the public.


Overlay, an exhibition created by the multimedia artist Xaviera Simmons for the Radcliffe Institute, uses text-based video, photographs, and soundscapes to feature characters rooted in stories and historical narratives found in the archives of the Radcliffe Institute’s Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America.

The artist engaged with a set of Schlesinger collections that resonate with long-standing explorations—cookbooks, first-person travel narratives, images of women at work, architects, and health works, among others. She distilled this multitude of voices and places them in a new contextual space, overlaying diverse languages and presenting a diverse cross section of figures to enliven and inhabit the landscape of the gallery. The installation provides these women new voices and audience, which is especially significant for people who might not have been afforded the same possibilities due to gender, lineage, and privilege. 

Overlay brings together and further develops numerous strands of Simmons’s artistic practice: her engagement with the archive, film, performance, sculpture, photography, the senses, and her situating of select aspects of the past into present and future tenses. She critically examines the potential of archives, both as repositories of historical memory and as spaces suggestive of alternative possibilities for the artifacts they hold. Simmons refers to the archive as her “studio,” a space of artistic genesis and exploration.

Overlay is part of a collaboration between the Radcliffe Institute and the Cambridge Arts Council, whose summer series on the Cambridge Common will feature a performance created by Simmons based on the exhibition.


We invite you to join us for free gallery talks about the exhibition:

Saturday, May 13

  • 2 PM, Tour of Overlay by Sean Wehle, PhD candidate, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University
  • 3 PM, Opening of Common Exchange on the Cambridge Common

Sunday, May 14

  • 2 PM, Tour of Overlay by Meg Rotzel, arts program manager, Radcliffe Institute

Saturday, May 20

  • 1 PM, Number 22 (Overlay) performance by Xaviera Simmons on the Cambridge Common
  • 2 PM, Tour of Overlay by Yukio Lippit, Johnson-Kulukundis Family Faculty Director of the Arts, Radcliffe Institute; professor of history of art and architecture, Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences
  • 4 PM, Number 22 (Overlay) performance by Xaviera Simmons on the Cambridge Common

Thursday, June 1

  • 4 PM, Tour of Overlay by Dina Deitsch, curator, Common Exchange; John R. and Barbara Robinson Family Interim Director, Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Harvard University
  • 6 PM, Number 22 (Overlay) performance by Xaviera Simmons on the Cambridge Common

Thursday, June 15

  • 2:30 PM, Tour of Overlay by Meg Rotzel, arts program manager, Radcliffe Institute

Saturday, June 17

  • 2 PM, Tour of Overlay by Meg Rotzel, arts program manager, Radcliffe Institute
  • 3 PM, Number 22 (Overlay) performance by Xaviera Simmons on the Cambridge Common

About the Artist

Photo courtesy of Xaviera SimmonsPhoto courtesy of Xaviera SimmonsXaviera Simmons received her BFA from Bard College after spending two years on a pilgrimage retracing the transatlantic slave trade with Buddhist monks. She completed the Whitney Museum’s Independent Study Studio Program while simultaneously completing a two-year actor-training conservatory with the Maggie Flanigan Studio. Simmons has exhibited internationally, including at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, David Castillo Gallery, the Kitchen, MoMA PS1, Musée océanographique de Monaco, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the Public Art Fund, SculptureCenter, and the Studio Museum Harlem. Her works are in major museum and private collections including the Agnes Gund private collection; Deutsche Bank; MoMA; the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami; the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University; the Pérez Art Museum Miami; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; the Studio Museum Harlem; and UBS.