From 15 October 2022 to 29 January 2023, the Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris is hosting photographer Zoe Leonard’s exhibition Al río / To the River. Although rarely shown in France, Leonard is a leading figure on the international scene.
Zoe Leonard works with photography, sculpture and installation. Her photographs are often grounded in observations of daily life, while also drawing attention to the physical and bodily act of looking. Migration and displacement, gender and sexuality, mourning and loss, cultural history and tensions between the natural world and human-built environments are recurring themes.
Al río / To the River is a large-scale photographic work which takes the Rio Grande, as it is named in the United States, or Río Bravo, as it is named in Mexico, as its subject. Over a period of four years, beginning in 2016, Leonard photographed along the 2,000 kilometers where the river is used to demarcate the international boundary between Mexico and the United States of America. “The shifting nature of a river – which floods periodically, changes course, and carves new channels – is at odds with the political task it is asked to perform,” says Leonard.
Following the river from the border cities of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, and El Paso, Texas, to the Gulf of Mexico, Al río / To the River is composed of close observations of the river itself and the natural and built environments around it. In Leonard’s photographs, daily life unfolds in tandem with agriculture, industry, commerce, policing, and surveillance, with a particular focus on the accumulation of infrastructure built into and alongside the river to control the flow of water, the passage of goods, and the movement of people.
Al río / To the River engages with photographic language from abstraction to documentary to digital surveillance imagery, and in so doing, considers various histories of representation that have shaped our perceptions of both border and river.
Zoe Leonard’s exhibition Al río / To the River is organized by Mudam Luxembourg – Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean, the Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris, Paris Musées and the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia.
The exhibition is accompanied by a publication in two volumes entitled Al río / To the River, published by Hatje Cantz/MUDAM Luxembourg.
About the Author
Zoe Leonard (1961, Liberty, NY) works with photography, sculpture, and site-specific installation, balancing a rigorous conceptualism with a distinctly personal vision. Leonard’s work encourages the viewer to reconsider the act of looking at itself as a complex, ongoing process. Using repetition, shifting perspectives, and a multitude of printing processes, Leonard’s practice probes the politics of representation and display and invites us to contemplate the role that the medium plays in constructing history. Leonard has exhibited internationally since the early 1990s. A retrospective exhibition was presented by the Whitney Museum of American Art and Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles in 2018. Leonard has participated in numerous international exhibitions, notably Documenta IX in 1992 and Documenta XII in 2007. In 1992, Leonard wrote a short text piece entitled I Want a President, which has been distributed in many countries. Taken up by others, it has been translated into multiple languages, circulated globally through social media, and presented in public readings and performances. Leonard is a founding member of the artist collective fierce pussy. Formed in 1991 the collective remains active today with three other core founding members: Nancy Brooks Brody, Joy Episalla, and Carrie Yamaoka. Zoe Leonard lives and works in Brooklyn, NY and Marfa, Tx.
Zoe Leonard: Al río / To the River
From 15 October 2022 to 29 January 2023
Musée d’Art Moderne – Paris