Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects
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November 1, 2014 – January 10, 2015

We are pleased to announce our next one-person presentation of new works by Michelle Stuart in which she continues to draw upon her lifelong passion for photography. Here Stuart uses the vast archive of analog and digital photographs that she has taken and collected for almost half a century, activating their aesthetic potential by re-contextualizing them in groups, and often altering them to weave personal stories.


Taking a painterly approach, she integrates the individual units into rhythmic narratives. “The effect can be cinematic,” as The New Yorker described, “full of jump cuts, or meditative.” Each work is a unique meditation on the nature of memory, composed of between seven and seventy separate images, digitally printed on 8 ½ x 11 inch sheets of archival paper. The individual panels feature untouched and altered photographs, including appropriated vintage images and her own photographs, combined in a filmic manner. These dreamlike recollections of her past not only continue her life-long artistic engagement with specific locations but affirm the significance of place as a unique source of memory.


“Memories are silent until we either articulate them in words on paper or depict them visually,” she remarks. Two years ago, in Palimpsests, her first solo show of exclusively photographic works, Stuart expressed thoughts on war, the cosmos, the passing of time, and on form itself. The compositions in Silent Movies, all created since then, present universal themes with deeply personal associations that contain keys to momentous events and evoke times and places in a manner that is both specific and archetypical. With abundant literary, cinematic, and historical references, these works do not merely address memories, but the very process of recall itself.


One work, Hear the Mermaids Sing, is a monumental grid of seventy elements that was created using a variety of techniques including collage, re-photography, and overlays. The central image, a hatted figure, is seemingly embarking on a journey, surrounded by a vast cosmos, an ancient observatory, and landscapes of rolling clouds (or are they in fact the residue of a hydrogen bomb?). The figure (perhaps a surrogate for the artist herself) is engaged in the primal quest to understand the deepest mysteries of life. Like dreams, visual sequences within these works simultaneously invite and repel efforts to decode them. In contrast to the rectangular gridded structures that characterize much of her previous work from the 1960s to this decade, Stuart has now begun to also occasionally break the grid, creating open and suggestive formations with an increased use of color.


In the 1970s, Michelle Stuart became internationally known for innovative works that synthesize Land Art, drawing and sculpture, as well as her pioneering use of natural materials in sculpture, painting, and drawing. Photography, which has been present in her work both literally and conceptually since that time, has been her primary medium since 2011. Eschewing typical tools such as Photoshop, she devised a highly personal and original method of photographic manipulation that conveys the impression of deeply felt images seen through time and layers of consciousness. It is “a combination,” says the artist, “of fact and fiction, truth and lies – and lies that tell the truth.”


Born in Los Angeles, Michelle Stuart lived in Mexico City and Paris before arriving in New York in the late 1950s, where she continues to live and work. Her most recent solo exhibition, Michelle Stuart: Drawn from Nature, originated in 2013 at the Djanogly Art Gallery, Lakeside Arts Centre, Nottingham, UK and traveled to the Parrish Art Museum, Water Mill, New York, and the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, accompanied by a catalogue published by Hatje Cantz. Stuart’s work has also been the focus of solo shows at the Institute of Contemporary Art, London; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; the Haags Gemeentemuseum, The Hague; and many other major museums and galleries worldwide.


She has participated in numerous group shows and international surveys ranging from Documenta VI, Kassel in 1977 to Ends of the Earth: Land Art to 1974 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and the Haus der Kunst, Munich in 2012. Stuart’s work will be featured in Apparition: Frottages from 1860 to Now, opening in February, 2015 at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, and traveling to the Menil Collection in Houston.


Major works by the artist were recently acquired by the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art and are also in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the Moderna Museet, Stockholm; the Kaiser Wilhelm Museum, Krefeld; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; the Art Institute of Chicago; the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; and many other distinguished institutions.


We are also pleased to announce Michelle Stuart: The Radical Redefinition of Drawing, a solo presentation of important early works by the artist at Art Basel Miami Beach, Miami Beach Convention Center, December 4 – 7, 2014.


Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects is located on the sixth floor of 535 West 22nd Street, between Tenth and Eleventh Avenues. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10:00 am to 6:00 pm.