‘The Work Should Become a Mirror’: Watch Leonardo Drew Build Complex Sculptural Assemblages to Reveal Viewers to Themselves

As part of a collaboration with Art21, hear news-making artists describe their inspirations in their own words.

Leonardo Drew at Pearl Lam Galleries. (Photo by studioEAST/Getty Images)

Beginning this summer, visitors to Madison Square Park might be surprised to find a colorful patchwork of materials resembling a city in the grass, courtesy of artist Leonardo Drew. Drew’s monumental new commission, in fact titled City in the Grass, will combine his practice of sculptural assemblage with fabric that alludes to Persian carpets, as well as towers of sand, wood, and metal.

Although Drew’s works often look like an amalgamation of found objects, he actually creates most everything from raw materials in his studio.

In an exclusive interview for Art21’s “Art in the Twenty-First Century” series, Drew explains how he achieves the weathered effect seen in many of his works: “I actually have become the weather…I would cook the materials, sometimes for months and years depending on what it is I was after.”

Process shot of City in the Grass. Photographer credit: Leonardo Drew. Courtesy of the Madison Square Park Conservancy.

Process shot of City in the Grass. Photo: Leonardo Drew, courtesy of the Madison Square Park Conservancy.

Drew goes on to describe his process as one of “just experimenting.” His 1988 piece Number 8 “was made up of all these failures, or at least what I perceived as failures,” he said. The physical labor and emotional weight of creating a work are part of what drives Drew to create, though ultimately he says he hopes viewers have “enough room to find themselves in the work. The work should become a mirror.”

Watch the full segment, which originally appeared as part of the “Art in the Twenty-First Century” television series on PBS, below. “Leonardo Drew: City in the Grass” is on view at Madison Square Park from June 3–December 15, 2019. 

This is an installment of “Art on Video,” a collaboration between artnet News and Art21 that brings you clips of newsmaking artists. A new season of the nonprofit Art21’s flagship Art in the Twenty-First Century television is available now on PBS. Watch full episodes and learn about the organization’s education programs at Art21.org.

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