Artists Working Now: Zoe Leonard
Paula Burleigh, senior teaching fellow, Whitney Museum of American Art
The work of New York–based artist Zoe Leonard (b. 1961) exemplifies a tradition of photographers who have challenged photography’s traditional identity as an objective document. Perhaps counterintuitively, Leonard has done so through often straight, unmanipulated photographs. Surveying her work from the 1980s to now, we will see how Leonard addresses questions that are central to the history of photography, from the complex role of place and the constructions of identity to the medium’s relationship with death and mourning. Most importantly, Leonard’s work reveals the strange power of pictures: capable of alternately absorbing and generating emotional investments, cultural biases, (mis)remembrances, and nostalgia in the mind of the viewer. While Leonard is most widely known as a photographer, she actually works across a wide range of media. Consequently, we will think about how the questions that drive her photography equally inform her practice in installation and sculpture.
Note: The exhibition Zoe Leonard: Survey is on view at the Whitney Museum of American Art through June 10, 2018.
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