Cary Leibowitz: The Queen Esther Rodeo
12.26 is pleased to present Cary Leibowitz: The Queen Esther Rodeo. Selected for the second exhibition in the gallery’s first season, New York-based contemporary artist Cary Leibowitz (b. New York, 1963) creates works known for an aesthetic of failure and self-deprecation. His multi-disciplinary practice reveals the depths of our human affections with Candyland colors and intentionally un-dexterous script. Brightly colored examples of Leibowitz’s trademark text-based works will be included in the exhibition; his signature colloquialisms transform small irritations and human fragilities into immense visual pleasures that open with humor and close with the realization of true vulnerability. Leibowitz’s sincere, but often farcical, exploration of longing, pain, and uncertainty help us to reveal ourselves to ourselves and ourselves to others.
The show’s title and new works pay tribute to the biblical post-feminist icon and heroine of Purim: Queen Esther, the Jewish Queen who used her influence to avert the slaughter of King Ahasuerus’s subjects at the hand of a vengeful aggressor. Her historical narrative acts as the exhibition’s central focus, a nostalgic and wistful search for idealism through liberator-type characters and witty social critique. In this vein, Leibowitz will unveil new large-scale, painted silhouettes from wood. One such silhouette is cut in the shape of George Washington’s profile and overlaid with text that reads “Emma González crossing the Delaware.” The work imagines a more hopeful and tolerant future while both celebrating a young and outspoken school shooting survivor and activist (who may save us all like Queen Esther saved her subjects) and parodying Emanuel Gottlieb Luetze’s 1851 painting Washington Crossing the Delaware. Leibowitz is skillful at delicately digging into the things many hold sacred like our nation’s history, identity, religion, private thoughts, and social norms. He challenges contemporary male authorship with his bubble-gum palette, his obsession and concern for pop-culture, and his earnest methods for personal introspection.
Leibowitz is known for being a maker of limited edition multiples. The exhibition will feature many that showcase the artist’s current interest in assimilation politics, border issues, youth activism, and gun violence. A hand-glazed ceramic platter is divided in two; one side is painted with the jeering words "this side is excellent" while the other begs "hey what about me." The work highlights the political and social isolation currently brewing in our country. Another ceramic work reads “oh to have the courage of emma gonzález,” and a vase states “I woke up from a dream where everything was unfair,” all painted with the artist’s signature black scrawl. Red, white, and blue belt straps, realized for this exhibition, proclaim, “Respect for the United States Constitution is a turn on!” They’re accessorized with Texas-shaped buckles engraved with the words “Queen Esther Rodeo Math Team.” The belts draw attention to how a political and civic awareness is now a common requisite for dating. Inspired again by Texas, rubber semi-truck mud flaps are printed with axioms like “Vote for a Teenager,” “World’s Best Queen Esther Rodeo: No More Round Ups,” “Faggy Faggy Boom Boom,” and “Ughhh He’s Crying Again.”
Additionally, a site-specific installation will feature a 20-foot inflatable pool populated with cardboard cut-outs of public figures like President Barack Obama, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Dorothy Gale, Princess Diana, and Queen Elizabeth; with national politics at an all-time level of divisiveness, the artist’s ‘wishing well’ of do-gooders is a personal bandage. “With all the frustration and anger in the world, we need these reminders that there is a light,” said Leibowitz.
- Angela Gonzalez Hall
Cary Leibowitz’s work has shown in museums and institutions across the globe including The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, Massachusetts; The Walker Arts Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota; the Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt, Germany; The Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Ridgefield, Connecticut; the Guggenheim Museum, New York, New York; The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, New York; The Jewish Museum, New York, New York; Museum of Modern Art, PS1, New York, New York; The Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, Indiana; The Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio; The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Badischer Kunstverein, Karlsruhe, Germany; White Columns, New York, New York; Philadelphia Museum of Jewish Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Art Metropole, Toronto, Canada; Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen, Düsseldorf; Bonner Kunstverein, Bonn, Germany; Cabinet Gallery, London, United Kingdom; Galleri Nicolai Wallner, Copenhagen, Denmark; Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois; Galerie Claudio Botello, Turin, Italy; List Visual Arts Center, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge.
Leibowitz’s first comprehensive career survey and solo museum exhibition, Museum Show, originated at The Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco in 2017 and traveled to The Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, and The Contemporary Art Museum, Houston in 2018. Leibowitz’s work has been included in the landmark exhibitions Too Jewish? Challenging Traditional Identities at The Jewish Museum in New York, New York; In a Different Light at the University Art Museum, University of California at Berkeley; and Bad Girls, New Museum, New York, New York. His work has been reviewed in The New Yorker, Artforum, The New York Times, Frieze Magazine, and Art in America, among others.