THE WHITNEY TO PRESENT ZOE LEONARD: SURVEY
NEW YORK, January 10, 2018—A major mid-career survey of the work of Zoe Leonard, one of the foremost artists of her generation, will open at the Whitney on March 2, 2018. Zoe Leonard: Survey is organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, where it will make its West Coast debut following the Whitney’s presentation. The exhibition is the first to assess the extraordinary range of the artist’s achievements over more than three decades of her career to date.
Zoe Leonard (b. 1961, Liberty, New York) has made photographs, sculptures, and installations that are celebrated for their lyrical observations of daily life, as well as for their rigorous, questioning attention to the politics and conditions of image making and display. Her work is wide-ranging in both form and subject matter, and addresses themes including gender and sexuality, loss and mourning, migration, displacement, the history of photography, and the urban landscape. Using repetition, subtle changes of perspective, and shifts of scale, Leonard reframes images and objects in ways that challenge the viewer to follow her path of inquiry, and to reexamine the familiar from every possible angle.
“We are delighted to partner with MOCA in presenting a body of work that is remarkable for both its keen critical insights and expansive emotional timbre,” said Scott Rothkopf, the Whitney’s Deputy Director for Programs and Nancy and Steve Crown Family Chief Curator. “Zoe’s work first entered our collection twenty-five years ago, and since that time we have been honored to feature her in numerous exhibitions, including three Biennials, and to recognize her achievement with the 2014 Bucksbaum Award.”
“Leonard’s photographs, sculptures and installations ask the viewer to reengage with how we see,” said Elisabeth Sherman, assistant curator at the Whitney, who is organizing the New York installation of the show in close collaboration with the artist. “Her work is both beautiful and powerful, deeply connected to the issues of our time and a counter-example to the speed and disposability of image culture today.”
Zoe Leonard: Survey will bring together about 100 key works from across Leonard’s career, dating from the mid-1980s until today. Among the installations to be presented is Strange Fruit, an important work of the 1990s, on loan for the first time in nearly twenty years from the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Composed of banana and orange peels that Leonard stitched together, Strange Fruit is the artist’s response to loss during the early days of the AIDS crisis, made at a time when there were no effective drug treatments for HIV. In addition, Leonard will also be adapting You see I am here after all for this exhibition, presenting it for the first time since it was originally shown at Dia: Beacon in 2008. Consisting of thousands of vintage postcards of Niagara Falls, the work engages with that iconic landscape and its role in the American myth. This work has a particular resonance given the Whitney’s role as a museum of American art, and the Museum’s location and view on to the Hudson, another vista which figures large in the American imagination.
Much of Leonard’s work reflects on the framing, classifying, and ordering of vision. As she herself once commented: “Rather than any one subject or genre (landscape, portrait, still life, etc.), I was, and remain, interested in engaging a simultaneous questioning of both subject and vantage point, the relation between viewer and world—in short, subjectivity and how it informs our experience of the world.”
The exhibition will also highlight important works of photography from throughout Leonard’s career, beginning with early images of aerial landscapes, maps, and models. The Fae Richards Photo Archive (1993–96), a work made in collaboration with the filmmaker Cheryl Dunne for her film The Watermelon Woman and one of the highlights of the Whitney’s collection, will be shown alongside photographs from the 1990s that address gender and sexuality within museum displays.
The exhibition will also highlight Leonard’s most recent body of photography and sculpture focusing on vernacular image culture and its relationship to identity and migration. Included in this group will be a new sculpture, How to Take Good Pictures, composed of over one thousand copies of a Kodak manual in print between 1912 and 1995.
Zoe Leonard: Survey will debut at the Whitney in the fifth-floor Neil Bluhm Family Galleries from March 2 through June 10, 2018, before traveling to The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, November 4, 2018 through March 25, 2019.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Zoe Leonard (b. 1961, Liberty, New York; lives in New York) has exhibited extensively since the 1980s. Recent solo exhibitions include Analogue at The Museum of Modern Art, New York (2015), 100 North Nevill Street at the Chinati Foundation, Marfa, Texas (2013–14), and Observation Point at Camden Arts Centre, London (2012). A retrospective of Leonard’s photographs was organized by the Fotomuseum Winterthur (2007), and traveled to the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid (2008); Museum moderner Kunst Stifting Ludwig Wien, Vienna (2009); and the Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich (2009). Other solo exhibitions include You see I am here after all, Dia:Beacon, Beacon, New York (2008); Derrotero, Dia at The Hispanic Society of America (2008), Analogue, the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio (2007); Strange Fruit, Philadelphia Museum of Art (1998); Kunsthalle Basel (1997); Secession, Vienna (1997); and the Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago (1993). Leonard’s works have been included in numerous group exhibitions, including Documenta 9 (1992), Documenta 12 (2007), and the 1993, 1997, and the 2014 Whitney Biennials.