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Alfred Leslie: Multi-Panel Mammoths    Oct 19 - Dec 15, 2013

Alfred Leslie in Studio
Alfred Leslie
Alfred Leslie in Studio
Lake Front Property
Alfred Leslie
Lake Front Property, 1962
Orange and Black
Alfred Leslie
Orange and Black, 1948-1950
Ornette Coleman
Alfred Leslie
Ornette Coleman, 1956
Pink Square
Alfred Leslie
Pink Square, 1957-1960
String of Pearls
Alfred Leslie
String of Pearls, 1961
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Alfred Leslie: Multi-Panel Mammoths
Oct 19-Dec 15, 2013

Probably no American artist has had a period as wildly prolific and tumultuous as that of Alfred Leslie from 1952-1966. At the outset of this amazing run, “Leslie carried abstract expressionism to new heights of graphic vehemence,” stated Alexi Worth, painter and writer. In what is generally considered an audacious decade in American art, Alfred Leslie challenged the known boundaries of discipline specificity, insisting on the relevance of inter-disciplinarity in his efforts as a writer, painter and filmmaker.

Leslie, commenting about the 50’s and his provocative “octopussarian impulses” said, “I wrote what eventually became The Cedar Bar and The Chekhov Cha-Cha, I began the mug shot series, Polaroid’s of pretty much everyone who came into my studio...there were hundreds of them and I was painting, making silk screens, everything was overlapping and one day I just said to myself, go for it, let the multiple disciplines decide who you are”. And they did. Out poured The Hasty Papers published in 1960 and the films Pull My Daisy and The Last Clean Shirt as well as the Multi-Panel Mammoth paintings.

The French art critic Michel Tapié called Leslie’s painting, “Pink Square” a “brutalist” work and linked the painting to the world of architecture and low relief sculpture. The “Mammoths” including “Pink Square”, and “Ornette Coleman” resonate with rich, thick declared surfaces of oil paint, layers of the built world piled on, in a powerful and structurally complex visual language. These works led to the later multi-panel mammoths of the early 60’s, which include “String of Pearls”, “High Tea” and “Lake Front Property”. Alfred referred to these paintings as “Abstract Illusionist”. The collage logic of these groundbreaking works had a declarative impact on painting during this period. These multi-paneled works combine masterful paint handling, both elegant and aggressive, with linked passages of seemingly disparate events into a single composition.

In a conversation with Nancy de Antonio in May of 2013, Alfred discussed aspects of these works: “size and scale change...materials, accumulation and bulk bring different meanings to things...a pebble and a ton of gravel are not the same...size is bigness, dimensions that usually reach past the stretch of one’s arms and the length of one’s steps...scale is presence, scale tends to step into the space between the viewer and the picture. When working a painting that could only be made by walking and reaching, I saw this layering as one of the ways some element of an intimate hand could be caught. Multiple-panels extended the idea and united disparate elements in the way motion picture film did. I introduced illusionism, trompe l’oeil, made them look like collages, put a white tie on the earlier blunt physicality. That kept the open territory of allusions with no transitions. Brutal and elegant, in painting, are two sides of the same coin.”

The Hill Gallery is pleased to celebrate the American debut of this selection of “Multi-Panel Mammoths”.

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