Shaun Leonardo: The Breath of Empty Space
Mueller Family Gallery and Rosalie + Morton Cohen Family Gallery
June 5, 2020 — September 6, 2020
Shaun Leonardo’s exhibition The Breath of Empty Space is a collection of drawings and video by the Brooklyn-based artist that critique how mediated images of systematic oppression and violence against young African American men in contemporary American history have shaped our fear, empathy, and perception. In a series of intimate drawings based on images widely circulated in popular media, Leonardo calls on the additive nature of drawing to address the reductive nature of memory, addressing how time and circulation affect what is recalled, seen, forgotten, or ignored.
In drawings depicting scenes of judicial injustice and police violence, for example, he removes details while highlighting others in white graphite and blurring information. In other portraits and landscapes, he uses highly reflective semi-opaque glass to return the gaze and redirect the eye. Exploring the negative space contained in a frame, Leonardo recalls how racial biases frame the information viewers provide when details are omitted, the wall between artwork and gallery frame is interrupted, and comfort and safety are compromised. Accompanying the drawings is a video installation of Leonardo’s public art performance, The Eulogy (2017), which recreates a New Orleans Jazz Funeral against the spoken words of Ralph Ellison's novel Invisible Man, holding space for bodies who no longer physically can. Shaun Leonardo: The Breath of Empty Space is organized by independent curator John Chaich.