Walking through the first floor of the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Forth Worth, Texas, you find yourself engulfed by a vast collection of organic materials filling the walls. Titled Number 235T, it's the latest offering from Leonardo Drew, the artist known for his large-scale creations.
Seemingly random at first glance, the looming installation's intent slowly comes into focus as sculptural pieces that he refers to as "planets," surrounded with hundreds of smaller objects to identify the interconnectedness of them all. Drew is viewing himself almost as the meteorological force impacting the landscape, toeing the line between spontaneity and order.
EBONY took a few minutes to chat with Drew to learn the motives behind his latest, massive work.
EBONY: Your sculptures often are commentary about the state of the world. What is this one saying?
Leonardo Drew: The work at the Carter, Number 235T, is an example of “Exploration” and “Materiality.” It’s like mining my (our) journey on this planet. I’ve seen and felt things as a receiver. This piece lays out a fact that From China and Africa to Peru and other cradles of civilization (including this one), we are part of a larger continuum. This piece is a mirror; find yourself in it.
Why do you prefer to work in large-scale dimensions?
As much as I would like to work on a smaller scale, if nothing but to save myself from the blood, sweat and tears of these “Gigantic Monstrosities,” it’s ordained that I continue to create like this until they finally put me in the ground. I only hope that I get better at it soon.
What event or childhood memory inspired you to become an artist?
I do believe “You are born an artist.” For some, it does take the right vehicle or circumstance to appear to make that fact evident. That being said, I’ve been “Making” all my life. The city dump and its landfills occupied every window of our apartment. I spent many days there rummaging and discovering. Even though I don’t use found objects, my work echoes that experience to this day.
What do you think the state of art is for young Black sculptors and what emerging artists are catching your eye?
We’re living in an interesting moment for artists of color and the level of genius that’s reaching unprecedented heights is truly inspiring. This is not a complete list but: Kennedy Yanko, Alteronce Gumby, Lauren Halsey and Ryan Cosbert are on my shortlist. There is and has always been expertise and exploration in the abstract from our people, from the fantastic iterations of sculptures from Africa to the brilliant discoveries and innovations of Jack Whitten, Mel Edwards, Norman Lewis and Mark Bradford. The list goes on and on, wondrous!
Your name is Leonardo. Do you think you were ordained to be an artist with that moniker?
As a child, I thought I was the only one stuck with this awful name that got me bullied and beaten up. Not until the second grade was I informed of the “other Leonardo” by the nuns at St. Anthony. What a day of enlightenment. I didn’t know my father, but his name was Leon and he was an artist. Being the second born I was given his name with the extension and blessed with his hopes and aspirations.
Number 235T is on display at Amon Carter Museum of Art through June 2024.