Zoe Leonard: Analogue Exhibition Review

Analogue created by Zoe Leonard is a 5 week long exhibition presented in the MoMA. With a decade in the making, Analogue covers 25 chapters, with 412 photographs in total taken on a 1940s Rolleiflex camera which in the words of Leonard was “left over from the mechanical age”. The artist statement enlarged on a stand when first walking in states that the images are a “poetic allegory of globalisation that reveals the circulation of goods”. Having read this myself before viewing the images, and due to its placement, it was apparent that this statement was aiming to act as a guide to the body of work and aiding the viewers knowledge before entering.

In 2014, Leonard released an exhibition 945 Madison Avenue located at the Whitney Museum of American Art where a large scale installation displayed a projected building with broken windows which “invites visitors to slow down”- this is similar in some senses to Analogue in terms of the exploration of the instalment as a whole as well as individually. Leonard explains in an interview that “you have to go in close”, this is something I found when walking around the large, open space. A black line distances you a certain amount, however enough so that you can still look at each photograph up close and analyse.

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My initial take on the exhibition was slight confusion of the order and how each chapter linked, or if they were supposed to. I thought critically about each chapters deeper meanings, looking further into the composition, lighting and location- each of which provided different opinions. When asking my mother what she saw, her outlook upon one chapter was extremely literal, she picked out the similarity of the colours, whereas I saw how the deep tones may suggest the end of something, maybe how the ‘circulation of goods’ results in things being left or replaced. This opened my eyes as to how one exhibition can affect each individual in different ways, especially Analogue due to its scale and durability.

Even with my initial unsureness, I was completely drawn to this body of work, the way it enabled me to explore deeper interpretations by being so open to imagination. Although the images in each chapter appeared to be focusing on a particular motif, they were still not too harshly suggestive so much so it restricted individual takes upon each piece. Some chapters captured a strong industrial feeling, through closed shutters, blocking doors of shops which appear unknown as to whether they are closed for good, for the day or not open yet. This contrasted to other chapters where loose clothing draped from crooked coat hangers on view to passing people. However, both relate back to the idea of circulation of goods- how this movement of change throughout time has altered the world around it.

One thing that struck me when walking amongst the chapters was how not every photograph in a set would be in colour, this variation lead me to question why. Was this to direct attention to or from these particular few, what is the significance of these images so that they are in black and white? In an interview based upon Analogue, Leonard described that the hardest part was “figuring out the structure” of the exhibition, trying to use a “physical scale that would be immersive”. Leonard wanted to create “something that was visually inviting, that wouldn’t just be as confusing and off putting as the problem itself, but yet that hinted at the scope of it”, in my opinion, this was achieved mainly through the combination of the artist statement used as an aid, along with large scale space presenting different chapters subtlety signalling the deeper meaning. Also in this interview, Leonard was precise and clear about what she was wanting to put across, however it occurred to me that she seemed aware of her thoughts, yet fairly vague about a direct or final reasoning for the orderings of her images and the specific chapters. By walking around and creating interpretations for myself in relation to each chapter, to then seeing Leonard’s direction of thought in this interview, this in a way disengaged me from her exhibition slightly as she discusses so many more points adding to a bigger picture that aren’t put forward in the artist statement.

Through The Wall Street Journal online, an art review written by Richard B. Woodward, remarks upon Analogue in a borderline negative tone. However, Woodward is observant in his statement that “Zoe Leonard captures a disappearing New York” and viewers are to “imagine the economic lives of people, nowhere visible, by the things they have to sell”. This is a unique take on Leonard’s visualisation of circulation of goods. Woodward explores the works effect on the viewer and how we may take to it, however in Leonard’s interview, she has more regard for the meanings of the images and the wider picture. This review allows for the viewer to gain a personal perspective in relation to Woodward’s thoughts upon the work.

I would recommend this exhibition to those who have an interest in long term projects, exploration into wider environmental issues and photography in general. Although this exhibition is no longer running at MoMA, those interested would benefit from looking Leonard’s work up online, where these isn’t much physical work but more interviews where you may gain a deeper understanding of her work.