Leigh Ledare (b. 1976 Seattle, USA) uses photography, archival material, and text to explore human agency, social relationships, taboos and the photographic in equal turns. Formally trained in photography, he has, in a relatively short time, developed a body of work that is coherent, complex, biting in its intelligence, and decidedly provocative. His resulting images are often sumptuous, saturated with color, and surprisingly beautiful. But they also, and importantly, disconcert us, they make us uncomfortable, and, in the process, they raise questions about the functioning of the image and the construction of subjectivity in contemporary culture.
WIELS presents the first institutional solo exhibition of Ledare’s work, a survey of over 100 pieces, with examples from nearly all of his series to date, along with video works, text-based pieces, as well as a number of new pieces, never shown before. The exhibition’s trajectory is deliberately not chronological. At its core, occupying the entire back area of the exhibition, sits the artist’s first photographic series, Pretend You’re Actually Alive, perhaps his best-known work, which pictures the fantasies and realities of his mother’s life with images alternately graphic, tender, and strange. Around it radiate the various projects that have emerged out of it, which reveal not only the range of the artist’s practice, but also a set of persistent concerns at its heart. Ledare has, almost from the start, made work in series form. These distinct but related bodies of work are studies not only of their visible subjects, but also of photography itself: how it mediates identity, relationships, love, loss, and, perhaps above all, human vulnerability. They are also indexes of the relationships of the artist with others – mother, family members, ex-lover, collectors, anonymous patrons, etc. – which, from the start, have played a central role in Ledare’s work. It is against this background that the artist chose to call his first institutional solo exhibition Leigh Ledare, et al.