Leone and MacDonald: Ten Years of Collaboration
March 18 - May 19, 1999
The art of Hillary Leone and Jennifer Macdonald explores secret stories and embedded codes, alternately speaking and refusing to speak to its viewer. Over the course of their ten-year collaboration, the artists have produced sculptural objects and site-specific installations which hover between language and abstraction, between legible content and its evanescence. The artists almost always combine visual pleasure with veiled content.
Language is Leone & Macdonald’s starting point as they create dense, layered, visual imagery—imagery that puns, sometimes quite literally. For example, the rake in The Garden (garden implement and libertine), the brand labels in Double Foolscap (commercial brands which brand us).
Their strategy, both visual and conceptual, has been to take on linguistic codes, such as Braille, that most viewers recognize but don’t understand. They delve into the history of the special language as they set about learning it. To create the work Ashes, Ashes, We All Fall Down they first learned Braille. Later they learned Gregg shorthand, the language of the court reporter and the executive secretary. In Double Foolscap they explore clothing, a form of language or visual communication. The artists believe that clothes mark both our public persona and our private sense of self, cloaking and contouring our bodies in ways which carry legible signs of gender, class and sexual preference.
Leone & Macdonald, long-time New Yorkers, epitomize in their work the larger concerns of the art world over the last two decades. As conceptionalism, multi-media and installation art swept the art world, they were accompanied by a general interest in political art. That is, through their work, artists engaged in issues of gender, sexuality and communication between public and private life.
Hillary Leone was born in Miami, Florida; Jennifer Macdonald in New York City. Leone studied at Brown University (BA), The California Institute of Arts (BFA) and the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program. Macdonald also studied at Brown, received a BFA from the School of the Visual Arts in New York City, and continued her studies at The Studio & Forum of Stage Design. They exhibited widely, including solo exhibitions at New York’s Gracie Mansion Gallery in 1990, at the Fawbush Gallery in New York in 1992 and 1995 and at the Whitney Museum of American Art at Philip Morris in New York in 1994. Their Untitled work with branding irons was included in the 1993 Whitney Biennial.
This exhibition is organized by the North Dakota Museum of Art with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.