Alfred Leslie: One Hundred Characters in Search of a Reader

Alfred Leslie: One Hundred Characters in Search of a Reader

September 8, 2018—January 26, 2019

Alfred Leslie (b.1927, New York) has earned international acclaim for his achievements in film, painting, drawing, and poetry. Beginning his career as an Abstract Expressionist painter, he earned early recognition his large, brushy images, often on unstretched canvas. As a filmmaker, Leslie collaborated with the photographer Robert Frank and the poet and curator Frank O’Hara, respectively, to make two iconic works of the Beat Generation: Pull My Daisy, 1959, and The Last Clean Shirt, 1964. Leslie’s magazine The Hasty Papers, which included collaborations between artists and writers, including John Ashbery, Jean Genet, Jack Kerouac, Alice Neel, among many others, served as an exciting, interdisciplinary provocation when published in 1960.

Despite much exposure and praise for his films and abstract paintings, Leslie made a dramatic switch to a realist, figurative painting style in the mid-1960s. This set him apart from his peers and made him a leader in the return to representation in American painting first signaled by Pop Art in the late 1950s. This transition also defined what would be Leslie’s abiding creative interests — the prioritization of narrative, acceptance of artifice, and the development of what he called a confrontational style of portraiture.

In yet another career transformation, Leslie began using computer illustration tools to make digital paintings in the mid-2000s. Examples from an as yet to be completed series entitled One Hundred Characters in Search of a Reader, the featured works are imaginary portraits of literary characters. Drawn from an eclectic and international range of novels, plays, and screenplays, these depictions of fictional protagonists teem with vibrant colors, telling details, and an intoxicating mix of styles and effects. They represent the range of Leslie’s painterly skills and imaginative powers, as well as the ways his lifelong love of reading has inspired him.

Generous support for the exhibition is provided by Ingrid Arneberg, Leslie and Brad Bucher Jereann Chaney, Cullen K. Geiselman, Cecily Horton, Sallie Morian and the University of Houston Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts in the Kathrine G. McGovern College of the Arts.

Additional exhibition and program funding is provided by the Cecil Amelia Blaffer von Furstenberg Endowment for Exhibitions and Programs, the George and Mary Josephine Hamman Foundation, the Sarah C. Morian Endowment, Jo and Jim Furr Exhibition Endowment at Blaffer Art Museum and Blaffer Art Museum’s Advisory Board members.

Alfred Leslie: One Hundred Characters in Search of a Reader is organized by the Blaffer Art Museum.

Image: Alfred Leslie, Miss Wonderly From The Maltese Falcon (1930) by Dashiell Hammett, 2014. Courtesy of the artist.


Friday, September 7, 2018, 6:00-9:00 p.m
Opening Reception with an introduction at 6:15 p.m. by Jane Dale Owen Director and Chief Curator Toby Kamps
Blaffer Art Museum

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