Tag Archives: Art Matters

Leonardo’s Work at Bronx Museum Ignites Focus, Thought, and Hopefully … Action

26 Feb

Feb. 26, 2021 — The Bronx Museum of the Arts was almost empty when I was there on Wednesday, but the message of its Shaun Leonardo exhibit, “The Breath of Empty Space,” was full … and forceful. 

The reflections from the glass covering of each large piece make you walk up close and wonder why the heck the curator didn’t see the reflections when they were installed. When I walked up to the piec, I didn’t understand what I was looking at. I saw various clothed body sections but I didn’t understand the action being taken. There were even cutouts from the charcoal drawing.

All this had purpose. 

Though the head of a person was non-existent, that empty half-body-like section was filled with parts of me. No, I was not killed, nor did I kill, but the message I interpreted for myself is that I have some role in the tale, even if I was in bed, or at Starbucks or on a bike ride for the seven minutes that Officer Derek Chauvin had his knee on George Floyd’s neck. Anti-racism doesn’t mean not killing or not saying racist things. It means acting, speaking, showing up — against racism. There were other pieces created with related messages, some a little harder to interpret, for me at least, which is why I need to, and look forward to, returning to the exhibit to look, and think more. And read more about racism in general. And learn. And act. 

In a video on the museum’s site, Leonardo shares his message briefly but in these minimal, intense words he offers more than any art critique can provide. 

[It took me a few minutes (and I think my friend, Larry, pointed it out) to see that that the emptiness in this piece with my, and the exhibit’s, reflection in center, was the absence of George Floyd. What’s more powerful than that?]

“And if you experience something lodged in your body, some guttural, visceral impression, then I wish for you to stay with that for a moment, to sit with the hurt,” he said, “so that you may leave this exhibition questioning the ways that we perceive. And at the end of this experience, we may discover ways to move differently in the world and to breathe life into this history of violence.”

The show is on until May 30. Attendance is free but you must make a reservation which is rather easy. Go if you can!