Zoe Leonard has made her reputation creating work that mines and plays off of the history of photography. Her walk-in camera obscura was a hit at the 2014 Whitney Biennial and a fitting farewell to the building Marcel Breuer conceived as a space that could "transform the vitality of the street into the sincerity and profundity of art." Leonard's installation — a room full of inverted, dreamlike images of Madison Avenue — literally delivered on that vision. For "In the Wake," her debut with Hauser & Wirth, Leonard fixes her gaze inward with three new series based around family photographs taken after World War II. In the years following the war, her mother and grandmother escaped Poland and immigrated to the United States after a decade of living in what Leonard terms "statelessness." The works demonstrate how snapshots shape a family's lore, and simultaneously bear witness to the larger collective experience of displacement and immigration. In this election cycle, a thoughtful meditation on the latter feels especially welcome.
Zoe Leonard, Misia, postwar, 2016. © The artist / Courtesy Hauser & Wirth.