Leonardo Drew 

Propelled into Otherness

The Power Plant presents Leonardo Drew’s first solo exhibition in Canada.


Leonardo Drew’s first solo exhibition in Canada features a selection of his distinctive sculptures and installations made of a wide range of raw materials, including cotton, metal, and wood. He subjects these materials to processes of aging, weathering, and deformation, evoking the cyclical nature of life. Commonly constructed through stacking, layering, and densification, his abstract assemblages are rooted in avant-garde modernist and postwar art, while recalling memories of his childhood spent scouring landfills and industrial sites, as well as the collective history of the African American community. By making familiar objects assume an unfamiliar and, at times, even an unsettling appearance, his work presents “otherness”—described by the artist as a state in which new, undefined possibilities can emerge and, in turn, inspire his artistic practice.

Much of Drew’s work is based on a loose grid structure which provides an underlying order to his seemingly chaotic constructions. This is particularly evident in his site-specific installation in The Power Plant’s Fleck Clerestory, Number 247 (2021). The installation, an encyclopaedic overview of the artist’s production to date, creates an inverted monument of numerous fragments, trapping viewers within the artist’s vision. A subtle grid can also be seen in Number 74S (2019), made of compacted cotton, conjuring bales of this globally critical commodity that was harvested by numerous enslaved Africans, particularly those who endured the oppressive plantation system of the southern United States. This work could therefore be considered another type of monument, reminding us of the suffering and exploitation of enslaved people.

A large selection of Drew’s black wall-mounted sculptures, including Number 192T (2017), are rife with contradictions: the seductive yet startling compositions are made of wood, one of the most common materials; the works appear charred, and yet are carefully painted in the artist’s studio; they erupt in the gallery space, and yet emerge from two-dimensional bases. For Drew, his creative process involves exploration as a means to discover the next iteration of a possible self. He invites us to question our conventional ideas about art, while exposing renewed possibilities for a shared future.

Leonardo Drew (b. 1961 in Tallahassee, FL) lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. He attended Parsons School of Design, New York, NY, and received his BFA from The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, New York, NY. Solo exhibitions have been held at the North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, NC (2020); de Young, Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, CA (2017); Galleria Napolinobilissima, Naples (2011); and Fine Art Society, London (2009). Drew has participated in numerous group exhibitions held at various institutions around the world, including the Phillips Collection, Washington, DC (2019); Baltimore Museum of Art, MD (2017); Studio Museum in Harlem, NY (2015); Denver Art Museum, CO (2013); and Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL (2010). His work can be found in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC; Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA; and Tate, London.


In Conversation: Leonardo Drew with Amin Alsaden
Thursday, 18 February 2021, 7 PM