The work of photographer Zoe Leonard (New York, USA, 1961) is exhibited for the first time at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. Leonard's work is based on observation and memory, through the portrait of maps and anatomical models, shop windows, museums and shops from his neighbourhood. The artist rejects photography as a neutral document, in favour of what she calls a "subjective truth". Leonard distances herself from the protocols and conventions of photography, even using printing processes that are virtually obsolete. She works with the images for a long time, she copies them into different sizes and on different types of paper, but never retouches them, accepting the imperfections that may occur in their developing, such as dust or scratches.
Leonard began taking photos at a young age, especially the city of New York. The artist shows her reflection in a television shop window in Brooklyn or advertising billboards. The usual format has a frontal perspective and a symmetry that gives a static image, exuding peace and tranquillity. Leonard’s artistic side becomes known after the exhibition at Documenta 9 exhibition in Kassel in 1992.
This retrospective gives expression to Leonard's interest of daily contrasts: natural compared to urban and what has been manufactured compared to the original. The artist spent time alone in Alaska and seems to admire the capacity of mutual adaptability between nature and civilization, as is evident in her series on trees that have bars bolted onto their trunks. The axis of Leonard’s career and of this exhibition is photography as the definition of a modern society.
The exhibition offers a representative selection of the New York artist’s photographic work since the Seventies to date, including her monumental work Analogue (1998-2007) which was exhibited at Documenta 12 in Kassel in 2007 and became part of the Dia Art Foundation exhibition at the Hispanic Society in New York. For this project the artist spent two months analysing nearly 12,000 images that reveal her unique photographic style. The project is organised according to a conceptual criteria and not chronologically. The groups of images show the effects of globalisation through photographs of stores in New York and other major cities.
Fotomuseum Winterthur, Zurich (December 1, 2007 - February 17, 2008); Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien (December 4, 2009 - March 7, 2010)