Spotlight: Celebrated Artist Leonardo Drew Constructs a Scene of Legible Chaos in His New London Exhibition

Drew's exhibition at Goodman Gallery in London also marks his first site-specific installation in the U.K.

Leonardo Drew in his studio (2021). Photography by Christopher Garcia Valle Courtesy AMFA and GLNY.

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What You Need to Know: Brooklyn-based artist Leonardo Drew (b. 1961) is famed for his sculptures made of organic materials that seem to burst from the walls, their forms vacillating between order and chaos. Now, in the new exhibition “Leonardo Drew” at London’s Goodman Gallery, the artist has transformed the gallery with a monumental installation, marking his first site-specific work in the U.K. The exhibition expands from there, with other sculptural works that speak to the artist’s intuitive and tactile approach to abstraction and materiality. 

Leonardo Drew, Number 248A (2022). Courtesy of Goodman Gallery.

Leonardo Drew, Number 248A (2022). Courtesy of Goodman Gallery.

Why We Like It: Drew transforms all manner of materials—wood, cardboard, paint, paper, plastic, rope, string, tree trunks—into richly detailed works using labor-intensive processes such as oxidation, burning, and weathering to mimic natural processes of aging, and underscoring the traces of labor on the material world. These works can hint at urban metropolises transformed into wastelands. While Drew’s works have long made these allusions, in the wake of world events over the past few years, these works are newly resonant.

Leonardo Drew, Number 259 (2020). Courtesy of Goodman Gallery.

Leonardo Drew, Number 259 (2020). Courtesy of Goodman Gallery.

According to the Gallery: “Exemplary works of Drew’s approach can be found in Number 314 and Number 325. These elongated silhouettes have the monumentality of a skyscraper, as well as the semblance of an ancient tablet. Made in Drew’s signature technique, featuring neatly stacked pieces of cut lumber in a dynamic, gridded sculptural relief, they are finished with a matte black wash with a white spinal column in the center of each panel, which emphasizes vertical rhythm. The white element amidst the black is like a code or a written language—like Braille, a micro-text to decipher. But it is also like a macro-view of a densely built city. As Drew says: ‘I think of it as making chaos legible.’”

Watch Leonardo Drew discuss his process and the Goodman Gallery installation in the video below.

Leonardo Drew” is on view at Goodman Gallery, London, through April 23, 2022.

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