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April 05–May 06 . 2012

Brian Leo We Are All Just Ordinary Until We Get More Damage Done


Brian Leo We Are All Just Ordinary Until We Get More Damage Done A conversation between Brian Leo and gallery co-founder, David Kesting. D – At the gallery we’re preparing for your 8th solo exhibition, titled We Are All Just Ordinary Until We Get More Damage Done. Let’s start with discussing the meaning behind your title. B – In the public sphere, it’s about wealthy people who inflict damage and/or impose harsh working conditions in other countries to reap rewards. Destruction and/or exploitation to be winners, which from their gains would make them more than ordinary. Is it ethical for Apple to outsource jobs to China with harsh working conditions that would be considered totally illegal in the U.S.? It’s reflected in paintings from the show, such as Equestrian, Golfer, Apple Toast and FoxConn. On the other hand, in the private sphere, the title references damage that individuals inflict upon themselves and/or have received from others just through the course of life. It’s the “whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” idea, which happens to be a current pop song by Kelly Clarkson. That song is so annoying. It’s everywhere, I hate it. I can’t imagine people being uplifted or empowered by it, but apparently people love it. Weird how the title of my show is coincidentally reflective of that song. Hadn’t thought about it until now. Ironically, the title for my show came about from a line from a song by The Liars that I altered a bit. D – Tell me more about the cover images, the two paintings Equestrian and Golfer. B – The literal subject of the two pieces is the leisure pastimes of the upper class and social elite. In reference to the theme of the exhibition, these works reflect the mass destruction of true damage contrasted against the social group that plans and benefits the most from global violence – such as invading Iraq to search for biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. D – What about the paintings The Captain or Man with Pillow? B – Growing up in a small town in Jersey, I can remember hearing some homophobic comments every now and then from mostly the jocks in the school, so in the piece I’m personifying myself as a dog with this flamboyant, stereotypically gay-looking hat and to the right of that image are some memories growing up. With recent news from the Santorum campaign, Lady Gaga’s anti-bullying organization and, specifically, the attention on homophobia in the Rutgers suicide/bullying case (which is where I attended undergrad.), memories from high school of receiving or witnessing people receiving homophobic comments came to mind. I remember the shooters from Columbine being picked on too. D – And Man with Pillow? B – That’s an appropriated image from Korean pop culture of Lee Jin-gyu, who married his pillow. I read that the t.v. show 30 Rock referenced that event, too. I think the notion of Object Sexuality is


Man W/ Pillow, 2012, acrylic on canvas, 20 x 16�


interesting – people having romantic feelings for furniture, roller coasters, fences...marrying monuments like the Eiffel Tower...having intercourse with the Golden Gate Bridge. Object Sexuality is becoming more prevalent in mainstream culture and I’m just meditating on contemporary information, kind of like I was doing with my Cat with Dustbuster painting when sex addiction became more of a buzzword a few years ago. D – Where do you get your news from? B – From all sources of media. When I read, hear or see something that sparks my interest and appears surreal and/or metaphorical, I do research on the interweb. I don’t solely make paintings about the news though; I make paintings about popular culture, whatever that may be. These days, I feel appropriating and re-contextualizing Internet pop icons is a direct reference to how Warhol and other Pop Artists from the 60s appropriated low-brow, mundane images. D – Are there other paintings in this collection that you’d like to discuss? B – Yeah, the piece No Fair. It consists of three generic protesters holding signs that read “No Fair.” It’s just interesting to me that the world-wide protests against the invasion of Iraq couldn’t stop it from happening. I think it was the biggest protest in history. The piece also references an extreme perspective by some conservatives on the Occupy Wall Street protesters as lazy whiners. D – What’s different in this show than in your previous exhibitions? B – The content for all of my work references my meditations on certain personal, political or social events that are surreal and/or symbolically charged to me, so that’s still consistent. Aesthetically, I’ve changed my palette and a majority of the pieces include a lot of white abstract paint blobs, which I then paint images in. I find that with painting on top of the flat white as opposed to on a bright color, the images might appear slightly more illustrative – yet still painterly – if that makes sense. Also, I’ve been painting on more medium sized canvases consistently. I still work with small canvases and I still appreciate the intimate aspect of them, but larger works give me a new kind of conversation with viewers. I guess it can be louder sometimes. D – Last year you had shows in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Miami. What did you take from this cross country schedule? B – I appreciate the public discourse regarding my work, and being in exhibitions in four very different cities really widened my perspective. I got to see a lot of art and meet a lot of different artists. The art fairs provide a huge base of art viewers and in four cities you meet so many. For most of my shows, I usually spend time hanging out in the booth or gallery. I enjoy discussing and sharing insight on my work with viewers. In turn, I listen to their associations and interpretations of my work and sometimes get new ideas. It’s just the sharing of information and human interaction.


Jersey Shore, 2012, acrylic on canvas, 24 x 24” Not Fair, 2012, acrylic on canvas, 8 x 10”


Horizontal, 2012, acrylic on canvas, 12 x 12” Slept, 2012, acrylic on canvas, 10 x 10”


Apple Toast, 2012, acrylic on canvas, 24 x 24�


Like, 2012, acrylic on canvas, 18 x 18�


Chick W/ Rat, 2012, acrylic on canvas, 20 x 16” Too Close, 2012, acrylic on canvas, 8 x 10”


Surfing Couple, 2012, acrylic on canvas, 10 x 8” Sled, 2012, acrylic on canvas, 10 x 10”


Google Bore, 2012, acrylic on canvas, 20 x 24�


Apple Shoe, 2012, acrylic on canvas, 12 x 12” Captain, 2012, acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20”


Oh No, 2012, acrylic on canvas, 18 x 18”


About Brian Leo Brian Leo (b. 1976, New Jersey) 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.

KESTING / RAY is an innovative gallery and creative catalyst in New York. Our mission is to discover and advance the most important contemporary artists transforming concepts of space and identity.

Cover Up, 2012, acrylic on canvas, 24 x 24” front: Golfer (detail), 2012, acrylic on canvas, 24 x 24” back: Equestrian (detail), 2012, acrylic on canvas, 24 x 24”


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Brian Leo . We Are All Just Ordinary Until We Get More Damage Done  

Exhibition Dates: April 05–May 06, 2012

Brian Leo . We Are All Just Ordinary Until We Get More Damage Done  

Exhibition Dates: April 05–May 06, 2012

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