Fill in the Lines


Gary Simmons, Lineup


Look at Lineup and try to visualize this as a complete scene. What flashes in your mind, or should I say who?

This is precisely the preconceived notion that Simmons attempts to catechize with Lineup.

Recreating the first source of interrogation in a police district, the alleged criminals stand up against a height chart while looking through a one sided mirror. The height chart is meant to mark the physique of the criminal, measure them up to the crime. In a society that judges based on representation in our visual world, we consider both the person’s demeanor and society’s view on a modern day criminal.  Rather than see the person behind the mirror, we are instead left with just their shoes.


The sneaker makes the man.

Using popular brand name shoes like Nike, Simmons connects this imagery to the identity of black males. Primarily they are the ones filling these shoes. Simmons reminds us of sneaker jacking, made notorious by black males; the crimes they committed all revolved around the ownership of similar shoes.  Consumed in this mass driven sneaker culture that the black community has created, these name brand sneakers have been attributed as a status symbol, a display of pride and their supposed ignorance.  The shoes align in a row set up to fill the shoes of alleged criminals. Lined up side-by-side, these men are profiled to fit the description of the criminal.  

Intentionally left without a suspect, we are left to interrogate our preconceived notion of the criminal identity. Questioning what description fits a criminal, physical representations have become the legitimizing factor of verdict.  Does his hair, face, race match up to the crime? What about his shoes?

The violent, dangerous civilians to watch out for are considered to be the black male.

Responding to the statistics and characteristics of the common criminal, many believe numbers are the most accurate account and predictor for crime watch.

But does the alleged always fit the crime?

What happens when we point without looking at the individual but their supposed collective identity?

When we judge before we know. What happens when we allow our opinions to choose over the facts?

What happens in a system that chooses a criminal before a crime?

Who then creates a criminal, the individual or society?

In a system of justice, it becomes of vital importance that we ensure the system we have set up fulfills its duty to their people. In sheer essence, we are all victims of a system, any system, whether it is mental, physical, life itself. Questioning the materialism with pop culture, I wonder what is of true importance anymore. Is it even about the shoes anymore, or even the status? What makes crime and violence so relevant, so common? Why?

Simmons addresses the preconceived biases of American society through the visual recreation of police interrogation. Through the received identities we visualize as we view this piece, we answer the question: How are these biases formed?

Society depictions.

Gary Simmons, an American artist who focuses on race relations, decides to confront stereotypes in his work.  Using his personal experiences as inspiration for his art practices, black subjects have again filled the context of the black artist.


Yet again,

can a black artist be a black artist without creating black art?



Jasmine BootheComment