“You see I am here after all” installation by Zoe Leonard
The Whitney Museum has opened a mid-career survey showcasing three decades worth of work created by New York-based artist, Zoe Leonard. The first large-scale overview of the artist’s work in an American museum, the exhibit, Zoe Leonard: Survey, features works spanning from the mid-1980s. Through a series of photographs, sculptures, and installations, the artist aims to portray artistic observations of daily life.
Among the installations presented is “You see I am here after all,” an important work by Leonard that is being presented for the first time since it was originally shown at Dia: Beacon in 2008. The sprawling installation is made of 4,000 vintage postcards of Niagara Falls, which were individually collected by the artist from flea markets and online sales. They span more than half a century — with dates from as early as the 1900s to as late as the 1950s. Existing at a total of nearly 142 feet long, the installation aims to engage with the iconic landscape and “its role in the American myth,” according to an exhibition press release. The postcards are grouped along the wall by viewing points, meaning that they are arranged by the vantages of the postcards’ photographers.
The current exhibit at the Whitney examines Leonard’s work through a historical lens, with various features on Leonard’s engagement with a range of themes, including the history of photography, gender and sexuality, loss and mourning, migration, displacement, and the urban landscape.
By using seemingly familiar objects or images in her work, Leonard aims to provoke the reader to reengage with how they see ordinary objects in their daily lives. Through the use of repetition, subtle changes of perspective, and shifts of scale, Leonard’s work serves as counter-example to the speed and disposability of typical image culture.
While the majority of Leonard’s installations can be found in the gallery located on the fifth floor of the Whitney, Leonard’s screen printed text will also be featured on walls throughout other floors of the museum. This site-specific installation, titled Homage, is composed of various excerpts from the essay “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?,” written by art historian Linda Nochlin. The piece was originally published in 1971 and Leonard’s selected passages of the essay will be on view on the third, fourth, sixth, seventh, and eighth floors.
Homage serves to align itself with Leonard’s other politically aware pieces that challenge viewers to engage with work that they might have not seen or read before.
Zoe Leonard: Survey is now on view at the Whitney through June 10, 2018, before traveling to The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. For more information, visit whitney.org.