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Zoe Leonard


The Agency is pleased to present new and recent work by the American artist Zoe Leonard . Since her inclusion in Documenta IX in 1992 she has had a major international solo career. Leonard’s well documented work “ The “Fae Richard’s Archive” , 1996, will be on show in the new display at the Tate Modern from October. At The Agency the artist will exhibit a new series of photographic work as well as an installation.

Zoe Leonard’s work centres around the concept of memory and the importance of objects in the process of remembering. It reflects the way we try to make sense of our past and present; the way we file away and selectively unpack our memories of people, places and spaces. It is apparent in her sculpture,1961, a neat row of blue suitcases that spans the entire length of a room, a work that Leonard describes as an autobiography. Repetitive in form, each of the suitcases are slightly different - different shades of blue, yet featureless. Unlike the minimal sculptures the work makes reference to, the suitcase object is both surface and container, its contents unknown when closed. The work exists on the line between formal rigor and a narrative of emotional possibility. The object is sculpture but also allows for associations to human relationships, history and memory.


Her work is placed carefully within the space, displaying full awareness of the double associations. At the same time Leonard always shows her respect for the humble object in allowing it to be itself. Coincidence and the unadulterated found object are in the foreground, underpinning the minimal aesthetic with an emotive dimension. The formal arrangement appears as an impressive sculpture at first glance, yet, closer inspection reveals the iridescent wealth of detail, such as individual marks and variation in the design.With this approach Leonard not only incorpates her own history into the work but also leaves infinite possibilities of associations for the viewer. Traces of human presence and the passage of time allude less to a spatial and more strongly to a metaphorical presence of the object.

This in turn guides the viewer towards an understanding of Zoe Leonard’s photographic body of work, which is at all t imes displayed alongside her installations. The prints are handmade to the highest standard on rare papers and yet they are documents of places found coincidentally and randomly over time. Zoe Leonard began photographing when she received her first camera as a teenager and has not stopped since to document the environment surrounding her in her native city New York and further upstate. The camera is a way to carry found objects which are untransportable with her, such as shop window displays, signage, broken windows, oddly displaced plants etc. In documenting them in situ, Leonard elevates them to improptu sculptures of the everyday, with a similar respect to their unadulterated state as the objects she collects and collates in the gallery context. Likewise the careful processing of the photographs, their modest size and the fact that they remain largely unframed renders them objects themselves, pieces of light-sensitive paper, affixed to the wall. Their simplicity belies the fact that they are expertly shot, beautifully printed and can be linked to historical examples such as the prints by 19th century photographer Eugene Atget.

Zoe Leonard is a contemporary artist who has acknowledged that art is not only of the moment or a reflection of the artist’s self but that it functions as a record of past and present and that it can be perceived and accessed by all. Not only that but she is unafraid to acknowledge that the origin of art is in the object itself and the power of the human mind to record its presence. Leonard has reduced the most complex of all principles back to its simple root. The beauty of her work is that it succeeds in opening our sense of perception.