About the exhibition
Following the river’s course from the border cities of Ciudad Juárez and El Paso to the Gulf of Mexico, Leonard considers the conflation of, and boundaries between, nature and politics as they manifest in the landscape.
‘Al río / To the River’ is structured through ‘passages,’ sequences of photographs that impart a sense of movement. Pointing to the dynamism of the river, Leonard groups images so that the topography and communities depicted invite associations and interpretations from the viewer.
The artist depicts the river and surrounding borderlands with an eye for the complexity of the various ecosystems, communities, and histories that converge at the river—from families swimming off the riverbank at Ciudad Juárez, to helicopters and border patrol vehicles on sentry; and from dams and irrigation canals, to bridges and boundary markers.
In thoughtfully composed, black-and-white analogue photographs, Leonard reveals the tensions that erupt when a river is made to perform a political task. Like much of Leonard’s work, ‘Al río / To the River’ reflects upon the historical role that photography has played in defining territories and shaping social consciousness as well as its present function as an instrument of surveillance.
By employing a range of perspectives from both sides of the river, her work blurs the various binaries so often ascribed to the border and underscores the often-imposing infrastructure that has been built around the river.
The full work, ‘Al río / To the River,’ encompassing hundreds of photographs, debuted at MUDAM, Luxembourg, in February, and will travel to the Musée d’Art Moderne, Paris this fall. Hauser & Wirth’s exhibition presents excerpts from this epic project for the first time in the United States.
In Conversation: Zoe Leonard and curator Nadiah Rivera Fellah on ‘Al río / To the river’
Join us for a conversation between the artist and Cleveland Museum of Art associate curator, Nadiah Rivera Fellah, with an introduction by poet and book editor Tim Johnson. The conversation will touch on the history of borderlands photography and delve into how Leonard explores the conflation of, and boundaries between, nature and politics as they manifest in the landscape of the US / Mexico border. Signed copies of the recent publication of ‘Al río / To the river’ from Hatje Cantz will be available for purchase during the event.
About the publication
‘Al río / To the River’ is accompanied by a two-volume catalogue featuring a selection of photographs in order, as the river flows, from west to east. Published by Hatje Cantz and designed by Joseph Logan in close collaboration with Leonard, the catalogue includes texts by over twenty contributors from a variety of fields – including art, art history, fiction, journalism, music and poetry – chosen by the artist and editor Tim Johnson to approach the river in their own right.
About the artist
New York-based artist Zoe Leonard balances rigorous conceptualism with a distinctly personal vision in her work, which merges photography, sculpture, and installation. By employing strategies of repetition, shifting perspectives, and a multitude of printing processes, Leonard’s practice probes the politics of representation and display.
On view in New York
‘Zoe Leonard. Excerpts from ‘Al río / To the River’ is on view now through 29 October 2022 at Hauser & Wirth New York, 22nd Street. Please visit our location page to plan your visit.
Inquire about available works by Zoe Leonard