Artist Shaun Leonardo, wearing a black t-shirt and cuffed pants, sits in a white chair for a portrait in the Sky Room at the New Museum. His hair is cut short. He wears wire-frame glasses, a goatee, and is looking into the camera, his hands clasped and legs crossed at the ankle. In the rear of the room, a bright backdrop of city buildings and a water tower are visible through floor-to-ceiling windows.

Shaun Leonardo: From Seeing To Witnessing

Visiting artist Shaun Leonardo will discuss his multi-disciplinary work, which interrogates societal expectations of masculinity, namely definitions surrounding black and brown masculinities. Speaking to his most recent body of work in The Breath of Empty Space, he will describe the physical and psychosocial negative space that is activated when viewers fill in the blanks, reframe details, and remix narratives based on both personal experience and perceptions ingrained by media and cultural biases.

The artist will also describe his investment in performance as a process of embodiment — exploring the ways in which memory and trauma are lodged within our bodies.

 

Portion of a pigment print in cotton fiber paper, consisting of a turquoise, patterned cut-out image of an individual standing upright with their fist in the air, superimposed on a blue background of a different patterned material.

Upon Closer Inspection

Upon Closer Inspection brings together artworks from three artists who work across different media to explore personal history and lived experiences as they relate to the formation of individual and collective identity. Through drawing, painting, photography, textile, and performance, the selection of artwork from Adama Delphine Fawundu, Phung Huynh, and Claire A. Warden examines complexities of how cultural identity, agency, and representation inform everyday life.

Through experiences of being the first in their family to be born in the United States to those that encompass migration as a refugee and immigrant, the artists’ stories intersect and diverge, sharing intimate aspects of their lives and critical perspective about acceptance. Each practitioner visualizes details of social interactions, cultural heritage, and colonial structure that have impacted themselves and their communities, calling attention to the dualities that exist as a result. Fawundu’s multidisciplinary work directly addresses her familial roots, exploring tradition and connecting with the African diaspora. Huynh’s drawings and paintings reflect on the refugee experience, representation, and the act of assimilation on individuals in Southeast Asian communities. While Warden uses experimental approaches in photography to dissect and interpret personal interactions directed at her physical appearance. The artworks included in the exhibition consider how the nuances of physical and psychological trauma are transferred and internalized, sometimes passing through multiple generations.