press release

Leonardo Drew. Number 197
March 25–October 29, 2017
Hours: Tuesday–Sunday 9:30am–5:15pm

The de Young Museum presents Number 197, a new expansive installation by Leonardo Drew (American, b. 1961), comprising a multitude of discrete sculptural elements, arranged on a linear grid. Spanning three walls in the museum’s atrium, it reprises a format he first explored in 2007, albeit on a much larger scale and in response to the unique context of the de Young’s landmark architecture. Like all of the artist’s works it is titled numerically according to the order of its creation.

While deeply informed by the trajectory of twentieth-century abstraction, Drew’s allusion to “natural” materials and processes also echo those found in the rich vernacular of African American art traditions from the South, a selection of which is concurrently on view at the museum in the exhibition Revelations: Art from the African American South. Using off-the-shelf-materials and the occasional found object, Drew works primarily with wood, which he subjects to processes that mimic naturally occurring ones—such as fading, rusting, or burning—and arranges these into wall-mounted sculptures whose forms evoke both the organic and the manmade.

Born into a working-class family in Tallahassee, Florida, in 1961, Drew grew up in the housing projects of Bridgeport, Connecticut. During his childhood, he spent many hours sifting through refuse in nearby dumps and rearranging debris for visual effect. When speaking about his creative process, he likes to describe himself as an agent of nature, drawing attention to the cyclical processes of decay and regeneration by “becoming the weather” that ages but also gives birth to materials and objects.

From the outset of his career in the early 1990s, Drew has employed the grid to organize his assemblages and installations. Acutely aware of the format’s historical weight as an influence on Western science, art, geographical conquest, and colonization since the early Renaissance, he fluidly negotiates the grid’s geo- and socio-political implications.

Leonardo Drew: Number 197 will remain on view through October 29, 2017 at the de Young Museum in San Francisco. The installation is part of a recently launched contemporary art initiative, which presents the work of living artists in dialogue with the unique histories and identities of the sites, buildings, and collections of the de Young and Legion of Honor museums.

The installation is organized by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, with support provided by Anthony Meier Fine Arts and the Contemporary Support Circle of the Fine Arts Museums.