Currently at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA are Laura Owens mid-career survey and Zoe Leonard: Survey. Two very different exhibitions, each exceptional in their own way.
Laura Owens’ exhibition (pictured above), captures the exuberance of her work throughout her career from the mid-1990s until today. Looking at the colorful paintings, it’s the details you don’t notice at first that give them added depth and life. Textured paint seems to float above the canvas and in some of the work sculptural pieces extend beyond the frame. Traveling from room to room you can see her style grow and change while still keeping elements from the previous work.
Zoe Leonard’s exhibition (seen below) is a thought provoking collection of the artist’s work that varies between the political and the personal and sometimes a blending of the two.
A tree sliced apart and bolted back together is suspended in a room that also contains contact sheets of birds in flight. In another, there’s a line of suitcases, one for every year of the artist’s life. There are photos taken of the sun and a table with stacks of postcards of various views of Niagara Falls. Black and white photos of animals who have been killed and dismembered confront you in another section of the gallery. Nature, death, and the passing of time are common themes present in Leonard’s work and in our own lives. The effect is meditative.
There are also the more overtly political works. For Tipping Point (pictured below) which she created in 2016, she created a tower of 53 copies of James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, one for each year since the book was published. On one wall a typed copy on onionskin of her famous work I want a president, that she wrote when poet Eileen Myles ran for president, hangs between two pieces of glass. (This work was also printed as a large mural for The Highline in New York in 2016)
From MOCA’s website-
New York–based artist Zoe Leonard (b. 1961) is among the most critically acclaimed artists of her generation. Over the past three decades, she has produced work in photography and sculpture that has been celebrated for its lyrical observations of daily life coupled with a rigorous, questioning attention to the politics and conditions of image making and display.
Zoe Leonard: Survey is the first large-scale overview of the artist’s work in an American museum. The exhibition looks across Leonard’s career to highlight her engagement with a range of themes, including gender and sexuality, loss and mourning, migration, displacement, and the urban landscape. More than it focuses on any particular subject, however, Leonard’s work slowly and reflectively calibrates vision and form. Using repetition, subtle changes of perspective, and shifts of scale, Leonard draws viewers into an awareness of the meanings behind otherwise familiar images or objects. A counter-example to the speed and disposability of image culture today, Leonard’s photographs, sculptures, and installations ask the viewer to reengage with how we see.
On Sunday, 3/24, MOCA Senior Curator Bennett Simpson will lead a final walkthrough of both of these exhibitions before they close on Monday 3/25/19. Admission is free to the museum and this event this weekend.