Drawing influence from both art history and popular culture, David Leggett, often mixing paint with crafting materials, makes paintings that confront race, sexuality, and class in humorous and ambiguous situations. In March 2010, he had his first solo exhibition, Up for the Down Stroke, at 65GRAND in Chicago, IL. The exhibition consisted of many smaller works on canvas as well as two large paintings — portraits of rapper, Rick Ross and singer, Beth Ditto. One of the highlights was a smaller piece, Colgate Smile, in which the artist depicts a black face, constructed out of felt and googly eyes on a round light blue canvas. Below the face, written with a paint stick, reads “thanks Bono”. Leggett’s subject matter, however, is not just limited to celebrities. Often inserting himself as a character, he appears breathing fire on Snow White, covered in “purple stuff” and wearing a crown with his shirt off.
Born in Massachusetts and currently living in Chicago, Leggett received his Masters Degree from the School of the Art Institute in 2007 and recently attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture.
Black Visual Archive: When I look at your work I often find my self thinking about your materials, mainly your use of googly eyes and felt. It brings back memories of crafting as a child. What attracts you to these materials?
David Legget: I started using those materials due to my distrust in painting. I thought there were other ways to problem solve in my own work. In my past work, I would just fill in areas without giving much thought, but when I started to add glitter, felt, wiggle eyes and other materials it made think about how much information was needed. It also made me slow down. I think when you use them, materials can easily look like junk if you don’t take the time and think about the placement. (Continue reading).
Written and overseen by Meg Onli, our beloved BAS teammate, Black Visual Archive is a terrific new blog/website dedicated to contemporary black and post-black visual culture that launches this week. What’s more, the website is designed by another invaluable BAS colleague, Martine Syms, who as you all know also runs Golden Age. I love the crisp look of this site, and the range of subject matter, which promises to be pop-y, eclectic, smart yet fun, too. Right now, Black Visual Archive has a beautifully written review of Kerry James Marshall’s exhibition catalog Mementos from his 1998 exhibition at the Renaissance Society in Chicago, which looks at the thematic and conceptual implications of the book’s design and content. They’ve also posted on a performance of Nina Simone’s “Feelings” at the Montreau Jazz Festival and the Berry Brother’s Fascination’ Rythym. A brief excerpt from “Kerry James Marshall | Mementos” follows:
Historically, a souvenir painting is a literal interpretation of an event, however, instead of painting the march from Selma to Montgomery or a portrait of the Little Rock Nine, Marshall’s “Souvenir” paintings all depict the interior of a middle-class household. In Souvenir I, (1997) the home becomes sanctified with the souls of black folk who hover above a couch. Their visages, reproduced with screen-prints, which are a sharp contrast to Marshall’s hand, are of deceased men, women and children with angel wings. In gold glitter the phrase “in memory of” is scrawled just below them. Is this our souvenir? The ability to ascend to a higher social status? Are these men and women our post-Movement saints? Powell notes, “one gets the sense that the ‘Souvenir’ paintings have just as much to do with process of memorializing as they do with the ‘idea’ or ‘theme’ of the memorial: painting likeness and building effigies to the one-time mortals-but-now-gods; creating a functioning, commemorative alter in one’s home; and constructing a hierarchy of African-American sainthood.”
There’s much more to come, so check out the site on a regular basis, or subscribe to the RSS feed for more.