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Colossal Wood Sculptures Track Death and Regeneration

“What you will see continuously in my work is a compression of time,” says the artist, Leonardo Drew.

by Antwaun Sargent
Nov 3 2015, 6:50pm

Leonardo Drew working in his studio. / All images courtesy of the artist.

A massive hanging black sculpture made of wood, paper, rope, a raccoon skull, and dead bird feathers emerges in abstract expressionist sculptor Leonardo Drew’s seminal 1989 woodwork, Number 8. It draws from Drew’s personal history, referencing Jackson Pollock’s all-over drip paintings, and Piet Mondrian’s use of the grid to allude to dawn and decay. Drew’s upcoming solo show, Leonardo Drew at Pearl Lam Galleries' Pedder Building in Hong Kong, continues the Brooklyn-based artist career-long exploration of materiality and the cyclical nature of existence, and, for the first time, introduces color into the artist's work.

“I’m working all the time and one work assists the other work to realize themselves,” the Drew tells The Creators Project. “My base philosophy for the work is birth, life, death, and regeneration,” he adds. Number 9C and Number 14C have been oxidized or burnt in an effort to make it appear both fresh and weathered—abstractly signifying the various stages of life. “In Number 9C, I illustrated the process of disintegration. The sculpture looks like it is dissolving right before your eyes,” Drew explains.

Number 9C Wood and paint.

The use of wood also represents an evolution in Drew's practice over the last three decades. “Wood is a material I am interested in at the moment,” says the artist, whose work belongs to the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. “Before wood it was cast paper, and before that, it was dust, and before dust, it was organic decaying material, there has been a number of different realizations as I have pushed my way through this art language,” he adds. Drew first started thinking about his art making practice as a young boy living in a public housing project complex in Bridgeport, Connecticut, where he spent time playing in a city landfill and making works out the objects he found.  

The mix media drawings, Number 19C, Number 20C, and Number 21C, and the introduction of pops of color in the new body of work, represent a return back to Drew’s earlier career as a painter. Number 21C is a gigantic drawing that’s on plastic done in cracked paint,” explains Drew. “It was a lot of fun doing it but at the same time, I was going back to an understanding of composition in a more traditional way. But as I am building on any material it’s with the idea that each thing has a time to it, and my work visually introduces that concept,” he says. Number 19C and Number 20C return to Drew’s earlier usage of cast paper, giving the drawings a sculptural nature.

“What you will see continuously in my work is a compression of time,” says Drew. “That compression falls in line with the layering process of a place like the Grand Canyon, from one layer to another, what you see is a line of history or life cycle and you see that represented consistently throughout my work.”

Number 10C Wood and paint.

Number 14C Wood, paint and screws.

Number 15C Wood, paint and screws.

Number 11C Wood and paint chips.

Number 18C Wood and paint.

Leonardo Drew solo exhibition opens November 13 and continues through December 31 at Pearl Lam Galleries' Pedder Building. For more information, click here.

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