Artists respond to 3rd Ward’s open call in ‘Suits’ • Brooklyn Paper

Artists respond to 3rd Ward’s open call in ‘Suits’

Jeremy Leichman’s playful take on the modern working man and all his costumed glory is on display at Bushwick's 3rd Ward Gallery in “Suits,” the gallery’s 2008 Spring Solo Show, opening on June 28.

3rd Ward gallery staff chose Leichman’s pieces from among hundreds of artists who submitted work for the gallery’s spring solo show open call.

Open to sculptors, photographers, printmakers, painters, graphic designers, illustrators, film and video artists, the solo show winner received a $1,000 cash grant and a two-month residency at 3rd Ward. Leichman chose to exhibit a series of mischievous plastic and ceramic figures of men in suits in various poses and situations.

“We definitely chose well,” said Nikki Bagli, marketing coordinator at 3rd Ward. “We liked that his work is multi-disciplinary, that they were things we haven’t seen before, and we really liked his sculpture. There’s a lot of meaning to his work and it’s very complex.”

For the competition, Leichman submitted a piece called “Cubicle,” which consisted of a six inch by six inch glass cube with a one way mirror, in which a ceramic figure wearing a suit is suspended in chains attached from the cube’s four corners.

“It’s a riff on the suit, of man in costume, to reconstruct the idea of a suit and the corporate machine,” Leichman said. “I really don’t know anything about the corporate world.”

Leichman grew up in Los Angeles before coming to the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, RI, where he studied furniture design. He moved to New York to attend graduate school at the New York Academy of Art in Tribeca where he began mastering figurative art and creating small figures.

“Everything that I sculpted there was nude,” Leichman said. “When I got out, I was desperate to try to sculpt something clothed. Clothed figures are more interesting, though it didn’t have political meaning in the beginning.”

After his work was selected for the solo show, Leichman began creating new work following a similar theme of costumed professional figures and their reactions to the world around them.

“If a future civilization was trying to reconnect corporate worker guy based on scant evidence, what would they come up with,” said Leichman, explaining how he went about creating a collection of figures.

Each of the figures are sculpted from scratch with no found or appropriated materials. Leichman prepares each mold for each figure, a process that can take several hours. After the mold, he must cast and then chase, or clean at the end of the final cast, before loading the figure into a kiln and then painting it, which can take several weeks until Leichman has a piece he is proud of. He also works diligently to sculpt emotions onto the blank faces of the figures, to make wry statements in relation to the situation in which the figure is placed.

“I try to make something just off from a blank face, trying to get that kind of subtlety in there,” Leichman said.

Leichman’s investigation into the nature of work does not necessarily make a comment about the mortgage foreclosure crisis, the collapse of Bear Stearns, the increasing gap between the wealthy and the poor living side by side in New York. For Leichman, his work is generic and foundational than that, rooted in a curiosity about the costume itself.

“Just because a person is wearing a suit, I’m supposed to assume something about them?” Leichman said. “Calling someone a suit is a powerfully derogatory term and on the other hand it means nothing. If you live in New York and you’re wearing stained clothing with sawdust and other people are dressed for work, it’s hard not to notice that.”

“Suits” at 3rd Ward Gallery (195 Morgan Avenue) will be opening on June 28 from 7 to 10 p.m. and will be running until July 20. For more information, visit www.3rdward.com.

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