- Show Dates - September 15 -October 8
The Free Associative
In what he refers to as a “garbage parade” of small paintings,
artist Brian Leo addresses culture, politics and American identity. The
parade, a cavalcade of tiny images exhibited en masse, show events of deep
cultural significance flanked by bizarre meditations on moments of Leo’s
personal experience. Each tiny piece, in turn, contradicts itself; episodes
rank with chaos and suffering explode off the canvas in bubblegum garage-pop
Working within the language of present-day visual culture, where talent show winners are as recognizable and evenly glossed as the latest war atrocities; Leo creates a tangible and overwhelming visual conversation, accurately presenting the warped and whimsical bombardment that is contemporary American life.
Somewhere between Osama Bin Santa Claus and Angelina Jolie’s disembodied lips, Leo, unravels and reconstructs the experience of living as a first generation American, of Korean and Italian heritage, at the forefront of the 21st century. He draws upon this background for inspiration in his work, recently manifesting itself as a series of paintings which depict the North Korean dictator and murderer of Leo’s patriarch, Kim Jong Il.
In what can only be described as a moment of lost innocence, an AK-47 toting Husky greets Kim Jong Il, “the ugliest Asian,” outside the Superdrome. His chain smoking Golden Retriever comrades only look on in passivity, awaiting th-e reaction of the deemed “alpha male.”
This, and a litany of other fever dream surrealities shift and swirl around the indoor-outdoor gallery space at Capla Kesting Fine Art, located at 121 Roebling Street, Brooklyn where Leo’s recent installation of over 200 artworks is expected to draw over a thousand visitors, and artist Brian Leo stands in the center of it all.
As he stares at a toxic, tumor laden portrait of his home state, New Jersey, a self-effacing smile disguises the mind behind madness. “A lot of times, I’m not sure where the images come from, or why they end up together,” he points to a well manicured fingernail which lays as a foundation to a suburban dream home. “This one’s easy. The root of my family’s American dream paid in part by my Mother working at a nail salon.” Others aren’t as easy to identify, he admits, while holding an image of skeleton-like guppies with human heads and skinny children’s legs, which swirl around a tiny slice of pizza. “I guess a lot of it has to do with questions of globalization. Things we have, which come to us so easily, and that others couldn’t dream of.”
Leo’s work also reflects the cynicism and questioning that plagues the media-saturated younger generation. Questions of truth, behind the never-ending array of contemporary tragedies is clearly a repeated theme in Leo’s work. Instead of using his painting as an opportunity to mourn or repent, Leo instead explores his own fears and conspiracy theories of what lies behind the headlines. One painting shows a melting submarine detonating an atomic bomb underwater. “Did you know it’s possible to have a manmade tsunami?” Looking at Brian’s paintings, you can see a slant of misgiving in his tone of voice, “other than a few tourists, the majority of the dead from the 2004 tsunami were poor underprivileged Asians.” His eyes shift to his large SuperDrome painting, where a few teeny tiny victims haunt the front lawn. “It’s hard to believe that all the death, the vigilante justice, the chaos and starvation of the Katrina gulf coast, happened only one year ago.” His somber kindness exudes evidence of a worldly self-consciousness which blends with a Frankenstein-like creativity, exploding out of these tiny paintings.
It’s that misgiving slant in Leo’s tone that the viewer keeps coming back to in his paintings. Not quite sarcasim, but not yet mature enough to be a lecture, leaving the audience to question the racism and greed that sits in the underbelly of the day to day. His use of bright colors and whimsical humor provide a flashlight and sense of hope, which makes this often dark content seem less so.
Founded in October of 2003 by artists David Kesting and Lincoln Capla, Capla Kesting Fine Art has become synonymous with the exposure of underground artists. Created primarily as a venue to expose their work, and that of their talented group of friends CKFA has developed a reputation for their off the beaten path approach to advancing the public’s knowledge of premier talents that demand our attention.
not here making a statement. We’re just showing art we think deserves
to be shown. The goal and whole idea of the place is to help bring artists
that we respect and enjoy to the attention of the public.” - Lincoln
Capla & David Kesting
Garage refers to a grungy warehouse of stored poetic language addressing raw emotion. In Leo's work, mundane imagery resonates against solid backgrounds of vibrant color, evoking Pop Art commercialism. Cartoon-like, whimsical subject matter, referencing individual identity, pop culture and current events, are juxtaposed and re-contextualized to form surrealistic icons of disposal. The psychological tug of these paintings reveals the Surrealist underpinnings of Leo's endeavor.
Working within the
paradigm of contradiction, the artist contrasts the bright and festive
colors of his palette with images of modern day despair and quirks from
Brian holds a B.F.A. from Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University, where he studied under Martha Rosler and Fluxus artist Geoff Hendrix. In 2005, Leo was included in an exhibit curated by Ronnie Cutrone, (Andy Warhol's Asst.) which featured 80's East Village Artists: Crash (John Matos), Rick Prol, and Keily Jenkins.
Street, Brooklyn NY 11211 tel: 917-650-3760
Gallery hours are 1:00- 6:00 pm Thursday - Sunday or by appointment.