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Leonardo Drew, Number 215 (2019). Wood, paint, and sand. Dimensions Variable. Exhibition view: Leonardo Drew, Galerie Lelong & Co., New York (16 May–2 August 2019). © Leonardo Drew. Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co.
Leonardo Drew (b. 1961) considers himself an elder statesman of the art world. In his first exhibition, at age 13, he showed a larger than life painting of Captain America. His natural talent for draftsmanship earned him early opportunities to work at prestigious comic book publishers like Marvel and DC Comics, but Drew was after something more elusive. In the conversation that follows Drew talks about the choices he made that enabled him to begin earnestly creating art, the experiences and collaborators who were formative in his development as an artist, and the influence of travel on his life and his practice.
This summer Drew is exhibiting his first outdoor sculpture, City in the Grass, in Madison Square Park while a solo show of Drew's new work is on view at Galerie Lelong in Chelsea. We met on a sunny morning in early June and spoke for an hour beside Drew's room-size sculpture, Number 215.
Galerie Lelong & Co. is pleased to present Brooklyn-based artist Leonardo Drew's first solo exhibition with the gallery.
For the past 30 years, Drew has transformed varied new materials into expressive assemblage, often distressing raw ingredients to evoke the passage of time. With this exhibition, Drew expands his practice to incorporate a wider spectrum of colour and to explore new aspects of his materials. The main gallery features Number 215 (2019), an energetic wood installation that is both sweeping in scale and intimate in detail, creating the appearance of an enveloping explosion that is frozen in time and space.
The exhibition coincides with Drew's first major outdoor public artwork, City in the Grass, an over one-hundred feet long by thirty-feet wide project commissioned by Madison Square Park Conservancy, New York. City in the Grass will be on view from June 3, 2019, through December 15, 2019. An undulating aluminium substructure serves as the base for the artist's use of coloured sand—a new and unexpected material—and wood reliefs that evoke the designs of a patterned carpet. While City in the Grass responds to the Park's urban terrain, Number 215 becomes an otherworldly viewer experience.
In the smaller gallery are several sculptural reliefs in Drew's signature technique, featuring neatly stacked pieces of cut lumber that extend into tree-like tendrils, all finished with a matte black wash. The works appear to be suspended in mid-transition, whether regeneration or decline, exemplifying Drew's long-standing interest in lifecycles and how human labour leaves traces of life behind in the material produced. Referring to how the work reads horizontality like written language, Drew says, 'I think of it as making chaos legible.'
Drew was born in 1961 in Tallahassee, Florida, and currently lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. Drew's work is on view through May 19 in Solidary & Solitary: The Joyner/Giuffrida Collection at the Smart Museum of Art, Chicago. His works have been shown internationally and are held in numerous public collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; and Tate, London. Recent solo museum exhibitions include shows at the SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah (2013); Beeler Gallery at the Columbus College of Art & Design (2013); Palazzo Delle Papesse, Centro Arte Contemporanea, Siena, Italy (2006); and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C. (2000). Drew's mid-career survey, Existed, premiered at the Blaffer Gallery at the University of Houston in 2009, and traveled to the Weatherspoon Art Museum in Greensboro, North Carolina, and the DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln, Massachusetts.
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