Greg Leshé
Personal Gravity, A survey of Video work from Greg Leshé at the Jersey City Museum, Jersey City, NJ, In the Panasonic Media Zone February 19 through May 9, 2004

This selection of video work by Greg Leshé acts as a survey of the artist’s work created in the past six years. Fueled by a desire to explore the delicacy of the human psyche through narratives that are both personal and universal, Greg Leshé’s work asks the spectator to consider the significance of mundane acts, repetitive motions and familiar surroundings in the service of a work of art. The possibilities represented by both the natural and constructed landscape are considered in the artist’s work, which uses both of these environments. Equally significant are the works’ titles, which frequently contain references to aeronautical terms.

Surface Drag (2000) for example, asks us to consider the relationship between the drag of the wind current across the surface of an airplane as well as the physics of dragging an object, in this case a video camera, across the surface of the ground. Destroying a video camera in the process, this video records its own final moments in a series of images that mark the object as self-aware. As it begins to lose functional capabilities, the video camera’s computer works flash cryptic messages across the bottom of the screen. Code-like characters appear across the bottom as the landscape begins to disappear among the disarray of lines interrupting the imagery. The action takes place on an abandoned airfield, where an overgrowth of weeds has stolen away the former life of the landing strip. For the artist, there is a personal connection to this airfield via childhood memories. This performance/video work allows him to use the airstrip as a vehicle to negotiate memory and actuality. The horizontality of the landscape seen in this work is a recurring motif that has connections to narrative, place and the human body.

His No Voice Tail Spin (1998) contains veiled references to the difficulties of family relationships and more direct allusions to the arduous tasks presented by everyday life. Setting up a task for himself in the guise of a short and repetitive course of action, the artist forces himself to step in the same laborious way over and over again, until he literally falls from the invented, labyrinthine path created from orange-colored sawhorses. As a metaphor for the difficulties represented by family relationships, the motions of the artist’s performance re-enact the cycles and repetitive encounters that these relationships breed.

The significance of the land and the horizon are addressed in the most recent work, Artificial Horizon (2004), which explores the metaphorical meanings of a gyroscopic-based instrument that is used to decipher one’s position during complete lack of visibility. Determining the difference between the sky and the ground is crucial to survival, which is how the instrument functions. Placing his own nude and vulnerable body on a plank of wood, the artist negotiates gravity, entropy and physics in a performance that is challenging yet quiet, simple yet contemplative, public yet intimate. These contradictions inherent in the work allow for a reading that considers broader meanings and implications of performative work. A simple gesture comes to stand for a complex web of personal narratives that may define the performer and still create a connection with the viewer. The difficulty inherent in staging this performance is apparent, yet its calm progression seduces us visually. This overlaying of meaning and form, allusion and narrative is present in all of Mr. Leshé’s work, which has been influenced by the works of many important conceptual artists, including Marcel Duchamp, Bruce Nauman and Vito Acconci. Also influential in his aesthetic development was the role his father played as the family photographer. Staging family snapshots, the artist recalls the importance that his father attached to the role of props and clothing in photographs. These constructed narratives were played out in family images and eventually marked the artist’s own interest in using props in his own work. His work titles Tail Spin (1999) features the actual rudder from his father’s airplane as the foil to the artist’s motion. In his telling Wing Stripper (2004), twenty years of dust lift from the surface of the model airplane that belonged to his father, a prop that the artist destroys in the process of creating his own work. Objects like these, laden with emotional significance, are crucial to the development of the artist’s work. Both props and clothing colors become essential formal elements of the visual narrative in Self Destructive Air Foil (2004).

Greg Leshé works outside of traditional narrative forms, which also underscores the avant-garde nature of his imagery. During the initial making of the work, he does not rely on narrative form, turning instead to the significance of and experience in the development of a life. By excavating the landscape of human psyche and personal experience, he presents narrative forms as malleable story lines that pose important questions about memories. Which memories are real and which are constructed from personal obsessions? Why do we return to particular memories and which of these contribute to the development of our identity? Do we have choices about how memories are (re)constructed? The open-ended nature of the non-narrative form that Mr. Leshé uses in his work allows the spectator to “enter” at any point in time without needing to rely on a storyline.

It is our pleasure to host this exhibition, the first of its kind, here at Jersey City Museum with a small retrospective of the video work of Greg Leshé.

- Rocio Aranda-Alvarado, Ph.D, Curator