Leif Low-Beer is an artist who engages in a playful reordering of ideas, images, and expectations through the use of constructed, multipart, and/or recombined compositions of drawings, collages, assemblages, and sculptural tableaux.
Evincing a keen interest in the mark of the hand, the relationships between objects in space, and the active engagement of the viewer, Low-Beer’s work is an exploration of psycho-spatial potential, graphing social tensions and internal enigmas that often exist as an underlying narrative layer. However, the artist seeks to transcend fixed ideas or story lines in his work, preferring to create opportunities for meaning that can evolve and expand over time.
Currently based in Brooklyn, NY, Leif Low-Beer grew up in Toronto and attended Guelph University (ON), then the School of Visual Art (NY), garnering degrees in philosophy, visual art, and design. His sculptures and drawings have been shown in solo shows at Buffalo Arts Studio (Buffalo, NY), Beginnings (Brooklyn, NY), Okay Mountain (Austin, TX), and Wild Project (New York, NY). A large-scale installation at Socrates Sculpture Park (Queens, NY) was part of the VISTA exhibition in 2011. THE ORDER OF THINGS is Low-Beer’s first solo show in Canada.
In a sculpture park, people look at art, art looks at people and people look at one another. Like a Saul Steinberg dinner party, in which each individual is defined by the nature of the rendering, a sculpture park is a gathering of distinct personalities. I approach my work both literally and metaphorically as a gathering place — a place where a collection of languages and gestures come together, where I can explore the relationships between a variety of objects on the page. The lightness and spontaneity of drawing makes it a good medium for such an exploration. The white of the paper creates breathing space, a place for a crowd of thoughts and marks to hang out. (I have always liked the idea of a room cluttered by beautiful objects sitting next to an empty room, with clean lines — both under the same roof.) In these spaces, eyes can play between light and dark, foreground and background, people and objects. Much remains ambiguous, allowing the viewer to bring his or her own experience to the work, an experience that will hopefully evolve and expand over time. There is something rich about a sculpture park that is suggested — imagined but never realized.
In sculpture parks, viewers and art interact in space, creating surprising collaborations that go beyond any single or preconceived vision. In my work, I try to foster such accidental encounters, and my process is in part an attempt to collaborate with myself. By placing different works together and working on multiple pieces over long periods of time, I stay spontaneous. New ideas meet old interests, heavy paint meets light pencil, abstract meets pictorial. Momentary flashes of inspiration come together, creating the exciting possibility of telling a story I did not know I knew.
It seems that the “what now?” void left by the Abstract Expressionists has often been filled by concept-heavy work that can be explained away through language. This deification of “idea” seems at times to threaten the basic appreciation of beauty, mystery, and perhaps even whimsy. In opposition to this, artists like Philip Guston, Cy Twombly and Jean Dubuffet use the decisive mark of the hand to access moments of immediacy, spontaneity, and clarity. Through such a mark, the viewer transcends idea and moves towards experience. With this in mind, I have come to embrace the liberating effects of “do” rather than “think” — to regard drawing as process and play, a mode of visual contemplation.
Working in this way has allowed me to take some of the principles developed in two dimensions and move them into three. When immersed in drawing, it is hard not to wonder how these ideas would manifest themselves in the physical world. In my recent work, I have started to play with perspective and depth of field by arranging real objects on the floor in space. I would like to make sculptures that, like the individual parts of my drawings, work independently but also read as a unity from a fixed point of view. It feels almost like working backwards to have moved so far away from my physical inspiration in order to start working towards it again. It would affirm my use of drawing as an exploratory medium if my work turns out not only to be a re-imagining of sculpture parks, but in fact sketches for sculpture in the making.
Links / Updates
The Order of Things | Leif Low-Beer
Curatorial essay by Shani K Parsons, TYPOLOGY Projects (catalogue), Toronto, 2014
Beginnings—. Episode 1
Interview (Vimeo), 2013
Your Dreams My Nightmares
Interview (Soundcloud), 2013