Brian Leo . The Post Ironic

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March 17–April 17 . 2011

Brian Leo

The Post Ironic

Brian Leo

The Post Ironic Introduction by Carlton DeWoody Brian Leo’s paintings are awesome. And I use that word for its history of definitions. Like all good art, Leo’s hits you with many fists. At first, you are struck with the ‘shock and awe’ of primary values: color, shape, size, and number. However, approaching the work, your comprehension advances from visceral to intellectual, revealing thoughtful discourse paired with metaphorically charged conceits. Mining the world for content, Leo’s subject matter is vast and indifferent. From avian flu to Google, his rainbow-gasm of paintings are inspired by personal experience, media, pop culture, technology and the mundane. They contain ironic social observations that wrestle with timeless themes and somehow guide the viewer from despondence to acceptance… melting existential angst with hot pink satire. Deploying levity upon socio-political disillusionment is not a new pursuit, but Leo sprinkles a new ingredient into this remedy, humility. His paintings talk with you not at you, inviting the viewer to build on the narrative and include outside meanings. I saw a grim reaper playing electric guitar, but the unlikely rock star was actually supposed to be a woman in a burka. This definitely added to the meaning but didn’t necessarily change it. In fact, the space between what I thought it was and what Leo meant it to be, is where his magic lives. He seems to foster and encourage this magic, as (miss-) interpretation allows his art to live many lives. Leo unassumingly tackles some of today’s biggest cultural clusterfucks en masse. Each painting is bite-sized in an almost unconscious acknowledgment of powerlessness… as if he knows his paintings won’t change the world, or its problems… but undaunted he paints, chipping away at the dark, with the light. Though each painting stands on its own, they also talk to each other... and in this way encourage collection and curation. If each painting is a word, by making a grouping, you create a sentence. Leo invites you to make your own world out of the pieces of his…helping him ‘finish’ the final piece. It is a modern day choose your own adventure, where the ensemble itself becomes part of the art. Top Chef’s Tom Colicchio collected twenty-one paintings all about GMO’s and cloned

Electric Cigarette, 2011, acrylic on canvas, 8 x 6”

animals to hang in his restaurant. Colicchio’s curation sharpens the meaning of the work, as the installation advances its irony, substance, and context. Filling out the Brian Leo experience is viewing the work with Leo himself. His personality confirms the art’s earnest nature and puts you at ease as he explains each piece. By talking about his paintings, you end up inherently talking (and learning) about what is going on in the world. Leo explains, “The exhibitions allow me and the viewer to examine all of these issues all at once…this wouldn’t be possible if we just sat and had a cup of coffee and chatted.” One thing becomes clear as you single work out and start conversing …you believe in him. Cat With Dustbuster is one of Leo’s most iconic images. Like most of his work, part of its genius is its absurdity. Repeated in different sizes, colors, and formats, the image itself can stand for as much or as little as you want it to… nostalgia for the 80’s, the present epidemic of ‘sex addiction,’ or just a cute folly. Its repetition serves to make it more accessible and less precious… while at the same time powerful. Even as a punk painter, Brian still sits in the pocket of art history. To see this, one might look to the cut-outs of Matisse…or the more direct influences of Basqiuat and, of course, Warhol, who emblazoned the art world with repetition and iconography. In a time when idealistic systems of technology, religion, and politics have led us to dangerous global impasses, Brian Leo is a picaresque hero. His body of work ascertains that florescent paint and candor are one hope for redemption. The glory of Leo’s pursuit is that not only does it make you to want to live with his paintings, it makes you want to paint….

I Forgot The Charger, 2011, acrylic on canvas, 6 x 8”

Bird in Hand, 2011, acrylic on canvas, 20 x 16�

Bear Time, 2011, acrylic on canvas, 8 x 6” Sex Bulb, 2011, acrylic on canvas, 8 x 6”

Bath Tub, 2011, acrylic on canvas, 20 x 20”

Pegasus, 2011, acrylic on canvas, 8 x 8” Wheat Paster, 2011, acrylic on canvas, 8 x 8”

clockwise from top left: Cell Tower, 2011, acrylic on canvas, 8 x 6” Lincoln, 2011, acrylic on canvas, 8 x 6” Women with Blow Dryers, 2011, acrylic on canvas, 8 x 6” 3D Porn, 2011, acrylic on canvas, 8 x 6”

Gold Rat, 2011, acrylic on canvas, 4 x 6” Astronaut with Glock, 2011, acrylic on canvas, 6 x 6” Miseducation, 2011, acrylic on canvas, 6 x 6”

Y U No Adopt Me, 2011, acrylic on canvas, 24 x 24�

clockwise from top left: Cat with Dustbuster, 2011, acrylic on canvas, 6 x 6” No Unify, 2011, acrylic on canvas, 8 x 6” Koalas on Cactus, 2011, acrylic on canvas, 6 x 6” Long or Short, 2011, acrylic on canvas, 6 x 6”

Burqa Rocker, 2011, acrylic on canvas, 10 x 10�

Dog with Plane, 2011, acrylic on canvas, 6 x 8” Typer, 2011, acrylic on canvas, 6 x 8”

About Brian Leo Born in 1976, Brian Leo lives and works in New York City. His paintings address global culture, contemporary politics and American identity. His work has been exhibited in numerous group and solo exhibitions at venues throughout New York and around the world. Leo’s work has received critical attention in The New York Times, The Miami New Times, The Korea Times, The Korea Daily, The Brooklyn Rail and other publications.

CHRISTINA RAY is an innovative gallery and creative catalyst in New York whose mission, grounded by the concept of psychogeography, is to discover and present the most important contemporary artists exploring the relationship between people and places.

Sunglasses, 2011, acrylic on canvas, 6 x 6” Front cover: May I Speak, 2011, acrylic on canvas, 24 x 24” Back cover: Seal, 2011, acrylic on canvas, 6 x 6”

Brian Leo’s work will be on view as a Special Project for NEXT/Art Chicago:

April 29–May 02, 2011 Merchandise Mart . Chicago

30 Grand Street . Ground Floor . New York, NY 10013 between Thompson St. & 6th Ave . subway A/C/E to Canal hours: Wednesday–Sunday, 12-6pm . phone: 212.334.0204 web: . email:

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