“Over the past three decades, Zoe Leonard (b. 1961) has produced work in photography, sculpture, and installation that is significant for its lyrical observations of daily life, as well as for its rigorous attention to the politics and conditions of image-making and display. Her work is wideranging in both form and subject matter, and addresses themes including gender and sexuality, loss and mourning, migration, displacement, and the urban landscape. Leonard’s approach to photography engages with its history as a utilitarian, vernacular, and popular medium; similarly, her sculptures are often composed of found objects—commonplace items that bear signs of their use. Through repetition, subtle changes of perspective, and shifts of scale, Leonard frames the quotidian in ways that challenge the viewer to reexamine the familiar.
Zoe Leonard: Survey is, as titled, a “survey” exhibition intended to give a broad overview of the artist’s work. But “to survey” is also to look out at a place or site and gauge it from multiple viewpoints in an effort to understand and describe it. It is this kind of mapping that Leonard undertakes both in her work and through the form of the exhibition. She encourages us to consider the Museum itself as a site and to question the conditions—be they cultural, social, economic, or political—that inflect our subjective points of view. Survey offers an opportunity to reflect on the nature of perception and to take the measure of our own relationship to the world.” — Introductory Wall Text
Zoe Leonard, Niagara Falls no.4, 1986/1991.Gelatin silver print, 41 7/8 × 29 1/4 in. (106.36 × 74.3 cm). Collection of the artist; courtesy Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne, and Hauser & Wirth, New York.
Zoe Leonard, Dress + Suit (for Nancy), 1990/1995. Gelatin silver print, 30 1/8 × 21 7/6 in. (76.52 × 54.45 cm). Collection of the artist; courtesy Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne, and Hauser & Wirth, New York.
Zoe Leonard, The Fae Richards Photo Archive, 1993-96, (detail), 78 gelatin silver prints and 4 chromogenic prints, dimensions variable. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Purchase, with funds from the Contemporary Painting and Sculpture Committee and the Photography Committee.
Installation view of Zoe Leonard, Strange Fruit, 1992-97. Orange, banana, grapefruit, lemon, and avocado peels with thread, zippers, buttons, sinew, needles, plastic, wire, stickers, fabric, and trim wax, dimensions variable. Collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art; purchased with funds contributed by the Dietrich Foundation and with the partial gift of the artist and the Paula Cooper Gallery, 1998. Image courtesy the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Photograph by Graydon Wood.
Zoe Leonard, TV Wheelbarrow, 2001, Dye transfer print, 20 × 16 in. (50.8 × 40.6 cm). Collection of the New York Public Library; Funds from the Estate of Leroy A. Moses, 2005.
Zoe Leonard, Roll #11, 2006/2016. Chromogenic print, 22 × 18 1/2 in. (55.9 × 47 cm). Collection of the artist; courtesy Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne, and Hauser & Wirth, New York.
Zoe Leonard, Observation Point/Observation Point, 2011. Two postcards, 3 5/16 × 5 1/2 in.(8.47 × 13.97 cm) each. Collection of the artist.
Zoe Leonard, New York Harbor I, 2016. Two gelatin silver prints, 21 × 17 1/8 in. (53.3 × 43.5 cm) each. Collection of the artist; courtesy Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne, and Hauser & Wirth, New York.
Installation view of Zoe Leonard, detail of How to Make Good Pictures, 2016. 429 books, 25 1/4 × 6 1/8 × 248 3/4 in. (64.1 × 15.6 × 631.8 cm) overall. Collection of the artist; courtesy Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne. Photograph by Simon Vogel.
Zoe Leonard, You see I am here after all, 2008, (detail), 3,851 vintage postcards, 11 ft 10 ½ in x 147 ft.. Installation view Dia: Beacon, Beacon, NY. Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne. Photo by Bill Jacobson, New York.
Zoe Leonard: Survey is organized by Bennett Simpson, Senior Curator, with Rebecca Matalon, Curatorial Associate, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. The installation at the Whitney Museum is overseen by Elisabeth Sherman, Assistant Curator.
Images courtesy Whitney Museum of American Art.