Provocateur Leeroy New recently had his solo exhibit Monstrosities at Galleria Duemila. I’ve been meaning to go at an earlier time, but my weekends have been so busy that I kept putting it off. It was only until I realized that it was the last weekend for the exhibit that I forced my ass off the bed and visit.
It’s a shame if you didn’t catch Monstrosities, because it offers a fresh take on Leeroy’s art. We usually see his alien pieces – those vibrant pods made of conduit tubes and cable ties. While they were entertaining (I first saw them in Psychopomp’s Reef, his outdoor exhibit for BGC), I wanted to see something more from the artist. I knew there was something more twisted than his organic microbe-looking installations, and I saw them in Monstrosities.
The exhibit was like a breath of fresh air because of its departure from his alien pods, but it had enough references to stay true to New’s vision. There was Gatekeeper, done in similar fashion to Gaga’s dress in the Marry The Night video, white blobs which I suspect were from Sputnik, the comic book store in Cubao X (which he designed), and the familiarly unfamiliar creatures in the Leeroy New mythology.
His most interesting creatures in Monstrosities are the Guardians, five bony fish-like (or is it bird-like?) hybrids that look like they are about to attack. They are both colorful and grotesque, and you want to pull away, but fascination is drawing you in. Stalagmite-like legs creep from its base, a gorgeous mosaic of pop colors. Closer inspection will reveal that it is made of plastic, and you have to admire New for his innovative use of everyday objects, such as toys.
There is the Rorschach series, a group of six trophy heads that are equally frightening. They are twin heads of varying creatures, all unrecognizable, with their fangs bared. Their eyes (which I suspect are store-bought) are creepy, and seem to follow you everywhere. Again, you applaud New for his use of common objects, this time of the plastic rope used to tie boxes and make “grass skirts” for grade school hula performances.
His portraits were just as fascinating, three large masks of varying details, each expressing a unique face. One is happy, one is sad, and the most disturbing is hungry, with tongues trying to escape its wide mouth. They are colorful, festive, but the emotion that wells up inside is fear. This is not something I would put above my bed.
Surprisingly, New had three sketches, called Landscape. I think they were the weakest bunch, but all three were sold (separately or together?). They look like pink smoke but a close up would show something sexual, with a hint of a labia and a nipple. It’s distinctly New, but I feel he excels more in sculpture and installation art.
Monstrosities sent me reeling. I’m not really quite sure what to make of it. The execution was interesting, the premise, promising. But I wasn’t really sure what New was trying to say with the exhibit, or if he was trying to say anything at all. Perhaps my mind is just too limited to process or keep up with him? I don’t know, but I have always thought his production is topnotch.
The Leeroy New mythology is growing over the years – from his microbes to his muscle dress to the controversies he has been part of in the past. Maybe New is ahead of his time. Maybe there will come a time when we will all finally understand what he is trying to say. By that time, mythology will be religion and these creatures – these monstrosities – have become real. That is a world I’m excited to see.