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Zoe Leonard: Photographic Forms, Queer Themes and a Whitney Retrospective

Posted on June 14, 2018 by Alison Pierz

Zoe Leonard is a major contemporary American artist who was just honored with her first retrospective in an American museum. Survey, at the Whitney Museum of American Art, closed on June 10 and showcased her photography, sculpture, and installation. It was a real honor to have a close personal acquaintance of the artist bring two of her photographs in for us to frame. We chose simple white hardwood frames to quietly offset the vintage black and white silver gelatin prints.

Zoe Leonard Black & White Photography
Two original Zoe Leonard photographs framed in our studio

Leonard works predominantly in photography and sculpture. Well versed in the history of photography, she uses repetition, subtle changes of perspective, and shifts of scale to invite the viewer to see familiar everyday objects in new ways and with deeper meaning. She explores a variety of themes including loss and mourning, migration and displacement, urban landscapes and issues of gender and sexuality.

Zoe Leonard Survey Whitney Museum of American ArtVisitors to "Survey", Zoe Leonard's retrospective at the Whitney

During the 1980s and 90s, Leonard worked in AIDS advocacy and Queer politics and her seminal work Strange Fruit grew out of this experience. Strange Fruit was composed of various dried fruit skins sewn together and referenced mortality and loss and particularly her own experiences with loss and mourning during the AIDS epidemic of the time. Originally staged in her Lower East Side studio in 1995, the artwork was subsequently exhibited at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1998.

Zoe Leonard Surevy Whitney Museum Photography
Leonard's aerial train track photo (far right) like the one we framed. 

Strange Fruit was among the works exhibited in the multi-room exhibition at the Whitney which also included many of her black and white photographs. Among those photos was a 1981 print of the view from an airplane window. We framed a piece from the same series along with an aerial view of train tracks, a copy of which is also in the exhibition. We congratulate Ms. Leonard on her show and hope and expect these works will be cherished for years to come!  

Artist Zoe Leonard
Portrait of Zoe Leonard (courtesy "Interview Magazine")

Posted in Back and White Photography, Whitney Museum, Zoe Leonard