Since the 1980s, renowned multidisciplinary artist Gary Simmons has created artworks that expose the legacies of race and class in US popular culture. The exhibition Gary Simmons: Public Enemy, which opens June 13 at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, aims to showcase the breadth of this complex and profoundly moving work with works from the past three decades of the artist’s career.

By drawing on popular genres such as cult horror movies, hip-hop, and vintage cartoons, Simmons analyzes fields including architecture, literature, music, and sports, and “asks probing questions about collective memory,” explains MCA Alsdorf Chief Curator René Morales. “How is our shared past remembered, and what is at stake? Which histories have we been taught to forget and why? His work does not provide easy answers to these questions, but it shows us where we might begin to look, setting us up for a powerful emotional charge as it inevitably leads us back to ourselves.”

Gary Simmons, “Lineup” (1993), screen print with gold-plated basketball shoes, 114 × 216 × 18 inches (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from the Brown Foundation, Inc., 93.65a-p. © Gary Simmons, photo by Ron Amstutz)

Gary Simmons: Public Enemy marks the second solo exhibition for the artist at the MCA; Simmons’s first catalogued exhibition was co-organized by the museum in 2002. The current show features approximately 70 works, including “Recapturing Memories of the Black Ark” (2014–ongoing), a living art installation inspired by the production studio of legendary record producer Lee “Scratch” Perry. As part of the piece, Simmons invites the exhibiting venue to organize a program series inspired by local performance histories. The MCA’s series includes an exploration of Black social dance, chamber music, hip-hop, and a conversation with artist Dorian Sylvain.

For Simmons, “collaborating with the MCA…to realize this exhibition feels like a homecoming, given the museum’s long-standing support and vision. It’s an honor to work with them to share 30 years of work in the great city of Chicago.” 

Gary Simmons, “Sky Erasure Drawings” (1996/2002), six chromogenic prints, 21 3/4 × 32 1/2 inches each (courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth © Gary Simmons, photo by Thomas Barratt)

Gary Simmons: Public Enemy is the second major, fourth-floor exhibition the MCA has presented in both Spanish and English. Through this initiative, the museum aims to offer visitors unprecedented access through bilingual content including gallery didactics, on-site Spanish-speaking visitor services associates, online content, captioning for programming, and more.

The exhibition is organized by René Morales, James W. Alsdorf Chief Curator, and Jadine Collingwood, Assistant Curator, with Jack Schneider, Curatorial Associate, for the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. It is on view from June 13 through October 1.

To learn more, visit