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Diane Simpson

Diane Simpson, Skewed Love, 2022, fiberboard, steel sheet metal, screws, washers, oil stain, acrylic, linen canvas, crayon, colored pencil, 42 x 72 x 20 inches.

About the program

Corbett vs. Dempsey

2156 West Fulton St. Chicago, IL 60612

Tuesday-Saturday: 10:00 AM-5:00 PM and by appointment

It is with delight that Corbett vs. Dempsey announces an exhibition of ten new sculptures by Diane Simpson. This is Simpson’s third solo show at CvsD.

In her latest body of work, Diane Simpson has further expanded the range of worldly references informing her sculptures. Where her practice had, for decades, revolved around ingenious extrapolations on the shapes, surfaces, and volumes of various articles of clothing, she has in recent times turned attention to certain architectural forms: windows, bannisters, transoms, and chimneys. Over the last two years, Simpson has narrowed her scope to focus on an aspect of interior design in the form of seating furniture – chairs, sofas, lounges, and other species of objects built for sitting. These are the fount of the current show. Deploying similar materials to the ones she’s used for the last four decades, namely metal and wood, often assembled from commonly available, industrially produced, hand-adjusted parts, Simpson has once again spun gold from straw, handling all aspects of the design (via beautiful preliminary schematic drawings) and construction of the works herself, without assistants or fabricators.

The work’s magic occurs in precisely aligned angles and calculated moments of disorientation, transforming quotidian forms, like that of an Adirondack chair – a common sight on lawns in the northern Chicago suburbs, near where Simpson lives – or embracing the odd, floating quality of a sled-like palanquin, which you’d never find in those environs. Like many of her Chicago compatriots, Simpson is an intrepid image-hound. Source material for this work comes from a vast repository of photographs taken by the artist as well as images she’s foraged from elsewhere, some of which she’s held in her mind’s eye for many decades. All of the work is, in a sense, derived from her interest in architecture and human bodies – the architecture of clothing on the body, the architecture of bodies in spaces, and now the architecture of objects of repose. “It seemed natural to move from clothing to architecture to chairs,” she says. “I work from an image and develop the form from there.”

Simpson and her friend Christina Ramberg drew on similar, sometimes identical, source materials without knowing it; years after Ramberg’s death, Simpson recognized some of her own treasured research images also identified as important reference materials in a catalogue on Ramberg’s work. “We were on the same wavelength but never talked about it,” says Simpson. The intensely personal way that Simpson explores and transforms a visual and spatial idea relates to a particular approach that Chicago artists have taken to viewing the world. The systematic investigation of a specific form and all its potentialities is evident in the typological works of Ramberg, Ray Yoshida, Barbara Rossi, Suellen Rocca, Rebecca Shore, and many other of Simpson’s painter colleagues. With her fetishistic attention to surface and her astute understanding of the poetic resonance of geometry, Simpson has rethought the surfaces where hindquarters reside, the shared communal spaces on which we all take a seat, itself a kaleidoscopic array of formal and sculptural possibilities.

Born in Joliet, Illinois, in 1935 and a graduate of the Art Institute of Chicago (BFA, 1971; MFA, 1978), Simpson has been an integral part of the Chicago art scene since her first shows in the late 1970s. In 2020 Simpson’s first institutional solo exhibition in Europe featuring four decades of work was mounted by the Nottingham Contemporary, and the same year her early cardboard works were exhibited at the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery, Wesleyan University. Simpson was given her own room on the ground floor of the 2019 Whitney Biennial. In 2015 the ICA Boston presented a survey of work from the 1980s to the present. She is a 2019 Anonymous Was a Woman grantee and in 2018 she received a research grant from the Graham Foundation to support her project Architecture in Motion commissioned by FD13 Residency for the Arts in Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Minnesota. Her first survey took place at the Chicago Cultural Center in 2010. Simpson will be the subject of a major traveling retrospective starting in 2025.


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Image by: Isabel Asha Penzlien

Diane Simpson

Chicago, United States


Diane Simpson, born 1935, is a Chicago-based artist who for the past forty years has created sculptures and preparatory drawings that evolve from a diverse range of sources, including clothing, utilitarian objects, and architecture. The structures of clothing forms have continuously informed her work, serving as a vehicle for exploring their visually formal qualities, while also revealing their connections to the design and architecture of various cultures and periods in history. Her wide selection of materials (wood, perforated metals, linoleum, fabrics) reflect her interest in the coexistence of the industrial/architectonic and domestic worlds. She has exhibited widely in the US and abroad; most recently in the 2019 Whitney Biennial. In 2010, a retrospective was held at the Chicago Cultural Center, and she has had solo exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston. Her work is in the permanent collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art; Art Institute of Chicago; Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; and Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. She received a BFA in 1971 and an MFA in 1978 from the Art Institute of Chicago. Simpson is represented by Corbett vs Dempsey, Chicago; JTT, NY; and Herald St, London.


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Corbett vs. Dempsey


2156 West Fulton St. Chicago, IL 60612


West Loop


orbett vs. Dempsey LLC was founded by Jim Dempsey and John Corbett and opened its previous space on North Ashland Avenue in September 2004.

Since opening, Corbett vs. Dempsey has presented a range of international artists and artists connected with the historical and contemporary legacy of Chicago. The gallery’s mission has included extensive exploration of widely known artists including Ellen Berkenblit, Brian Calvin, Arturo Herrera, Charline von Heyl, Dick Higgins, Rebecca Morris, Albert Oehlen, Joyce Pensato, Arlene Shechet, and Christopher Wool, supporting emerging and mid-career figures including Christina Forrer, Gabrielle Garland, Magalie Guérin, David Hartt, Celeste Rapone, Rebecca Shore, Lui Shtini, Cauleen Smith, John Sparagana, Omar Velázquez, and Molly Zuckerman-Hartung, and championing artists of critical significance to post-war Chicago including Margot Bergman, Dominick Di Meo, Edward Flood, Philip Hanson, Thomas H. Kapsalis, Robert Lostutter, Christina Ramberg, Diane Simpson, Karl Wirsum, and Jimmy Wright. Creative music has always been a feature of the gallery’s activities; in addition to having its own record label, CvsD is proud to represent Peter Brötzmann and the estate of Sun Ra.

Corbett vs. Dempsey’s record label features a mixture of new recordings and CD reissues of out-of-print LPs, CvsD’s offerings focus on jazz, free jazz, and improvised music; occasional rock and rock-related noise; artist-related projects; sound art; and some experimentally minded dub. Many of the releases continue the archival work that John Corbett did with his Unheard Music Series, released under the Atavistic label starting in the late ’90s, with Peter Brötzmann, Joe McPhee, Tom Prehn, and Sun Ra being carry-overs from UMS. Corbett’s commitment to the Joe McPhee legacy led to CvsD’s acquisition of McPhee’s legendary Hat Hut tapes, along with the label’s cache of recordings by Steve Lacy, Jimmy Lyons, and various other artists. The label’s more recent offerings are packaged in tipped-on mini-LP covers, lovingly designed to reproduce the original LP packaging, as well as CvsD’s first vinyl LP.

Corbett has taught at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) since 1988.  He was artistic director of Berlin JazzFest 2002, co-curated the Empty Bottle Jazz Series from 1996 to 2005, and was co-curator of Pathways to Unknown Worlds: Sun Ra, El Saturn, and Chicago’s Afro-Futurist Underground, 1954-1968 (Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago, 2006; Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, 2009; Durham Art Guild, Durham, North Carolina, 2009). For over 20 years, Dempsey was the house manager and occasional programmer at the Gene Siskel Film Center, Chicago. He is an alumnus of SAIC. Together Corbett and Dempsey have been involved in many independent curatorial projects, including Big Picture: A New View of Painting In Chicago (Chicago History Museum, 2007), Touch and Go: Ray Yoshida and his Spheres of Influence (Sullivan Galleries, Chicago, 2010), and Private Eye: The Imagist Impulse in Chicago Art (Newfields Museum in Indianapolis, Indiana, 2021).

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