Zoe Leonard is one of today’s most critically acclaimed artists. This presentation of Al río / To the River is the first major exhibition of the internationally renowned artist’s work in Australia. Working with photography, sculpture and site-specific installation, Leonard balances a conceptual clarity with a distinctly personal vision. Her photographs are often grounded in observations of daily life. Migration and displacement, gender and sexuality, mourning and loss, cultural history and the tensions between the natural world and humanbuilt environments are recurring themes. Using seriality, shifting perspectives and a multitude of printing processes, Leonard probes the politics of representation and display, and invites us to contemplate the role the photographic medium plays in constructing history.
Over a period of five years, beginning in 2016, Leonard photographed along the 2,000 km stretch where the Rio Grande/ Río Bravo is used to demarcate the international boundary between Mexico and the United States, following the river from the border cities of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, and El Paso, Texas, to the Gulf of Mexico. While anchored to the geographic, social, economic and political realities of the extended region of the Americas, Leonard’s visual meditation on the river resonates with the urgent subjects of borders and migration globally. Al río / To the River engages with conversations happening in Australia and elsewhere about the impact of human industry and commerce on the natural world, climate change and the traumatic fissures enacted through settler colonialism on First Nations communities and Country.