Monday, March 17, 2014

BONNY LEIBOWITZ at Cohn Drennan Contemporary

Justice For All? 2013
plaster, tree bark, acrylic, faux fur, hinge, metal and shellac re-post of my article

I love studio visits and not just those studio tour visits, but when you call the artists up and ask them if you can see their new work. Bonny Leibowitz generously invited me to visit her studio on a day I was also visiting a few other artists. She was preparing for her upcoming show at Cohn Drennan Contemporary on November 23rd.

Leibowitz will be paired with artist Winter Rusiloski in a show titled Pleasure Tempest. Leibowitz has shown at this gallery before, but usually her work would populate the walls with encaustic paintings, however she has made a major shift in her work. For now, it appears Leibowitz has become primarily a sculptor.

This shift not only applies to her approach, but her content, style and sensibility. There of course are a few transitional pieces which reflect the past innovations of her paintings. Like the work “The Diva and the Deflated Ego,” in which art historical images have been collaged into a puddle. The rest of the piece then branches away from her past into a riskier investigation. This melting skull like structure seems to project the idea of keeping up appearances against the backdrop of the ravages of time. As I walked around this piece, I noticed a kind of tilt that left it looking a little off balance. In fact, many of these works have a lean that implies the possibility of falling. The theme of physical bodies and the effects of aging carry through all of this work. This stands in contrast with her more elemental and atmospheric paintings from past shows.

Upon reflection of my visit, the California Funk Art movement came to mind. Particularly Ed Kienholz and his critique of contemporary culture. Like Kienholz, Leibowitz peels away the glossy images presented in magazines and television to reveal real experiences of the imperfect body. However, Leibowitz’ more abstract approach adds an element of ambiguity that is sometimes lacking in Kienholz. Closer to home, artist Richie Budd, from the famed Good/Bad Art Collective also came to mind. Like Budd, Leibowitz’ new work attempts to push the boundaries of aesthetics.

One reason I believe Leibowitz was about to make this shift is that she had recently expanded her studio space. It is a simple idea, having space, but look at the creative explosion of the Abstract Expressionists when large spaces where available. The rise of the Young British Artist movement was helped in part by the affordable space. Leibowitz was able to free herself to take more risks. Another factor is that Leibowitz has been breaking the frame of her paintings with greater frequency and boldness. I couldn’t have predicted this body of work, but I wasn’t completely taken by surprise either. I look forward to seeing it installed next weekend. for more images.

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