Amndrew Leipzig, "Careful Drivers are Survivors"
Don Mistretta, owner of the Mistretta Galleries in Locust Valley, NY, remarked of his exhibition of Andrew Leipzig’s digital artwork that “His work is somewhat hard to define.” That is a challenge that begins with how one is to define “define.” As an artist writing about art I choose the visual meaning of definition as sharpening of perception rather than the literal definition concerning the verbal explanation of meaning such as might appear in a dictionary. The purpose of this article is to sharpen our perception of the art of Andrew Leipzig.
To define it, one will first have to actually look at the art of Andrew Leipzig, who is sometimes called “Zig.” This article will have illustrations and a portfolio, and Andrew’s website has portfolios at even higher resolution, but as is most often the case, the physical artwork is far superior to these surrogates in that it is the end product of the artist’s decisions unmediated by the size, resolution and translations inherent in storing, transmitting and reinterpreting visual information over an electronic system.
Original prints may be seen in the exhibition “The Art of Zig: Pixelicious” at the Mistretta Galleries through September 5th, and Andrew will be showing “Zig’s Underground” at the Long Island Fringe Festival’s “The Art of Demarcation” Tilles Center exhibition at the end of September. Signed Editions are available through the artist, open editions through fineartamerica.com.
Andrew Leipzig, "By George"
The works are digital paintings/collages of recognizable imagery printed on canvas, and are therefore multiples that could be rendered at various sizes. They are varnished for UV and mechanical durability and to lend such unity to their surfaces as to give them the appearance of highly detailed oil paintings, a metaphor extended by their picture-framing.
Andrew Leipzig, "Mystique"
Design and Composition
The compositions of the works in this exhibited series tend toward rough symmetry of reflection which makes them graphically immediate. The artist’s considerable background as a graphic artist serves to acquaint him with strategies for capturing visual attention through design, and most of the pieces conform to classical rules such as dominance/subordination to keep the eye engaged while moving through the piece.
Andrew Leipzig "Christina's World Exit 6"
All of the pieces share the strategy of combining unexpected and/or incompatible objects in a pictorially realistic environment. This often requires structuring the effects of light source and quality across multiple elements so that the illumination appears consistent throughout. This differentiates the works from collage.
Meaning and Significance
A naïve viewer lacking knowledge of the artists’ chosen pictorial elements as signifiers might see the work as surrealism according to the classic quotation from Ducass’ Les Chants du Maldoror, “As beautiful as the chance meeting of a sewing machine and an umbrella on a dissecting table." The pictorial elements combined by this artist are, although unexpected, not present by chance but selected for their individual and collective meaning.
The informed viewer will most often respond with humor, or be even more deeply affected, by these pieces. These responses are the result of the perceiver dealing with a state of cognitive dissonance, where two or more contradictory perceptions are held simultaneously to be the case. Laughter is an adaptive response to such a discovery, and many of these works are seen to be funny. Funny is, however, not a characteristic of an object or event, but of a person’s perception of an object or event. Funny, it may be said, lies in the beholder.
Therefore, the ideal viewer will be sufficiently knowledgeable of the meaning of the visual cultural signifiers used by the artist to interpret their individual and collective meaning. Such signifiers change with time at varying rates, so such work has a half-life dependent on the durability of its signifiers. The layered meanings of the elements in Renaissance religious paintings are, for example, completely lost on all but the most committed student of semiotics. This demonstrates that, for at least by some definitions of art, appreciation requires a knowledgeable perceiver.
Andrew Leipzig, "Have a Heart"
This deeply affecting piece conflates iconic images and ideas originating in 1960’s American military involvement in Vietnam. Two horrific photographs have been burned into the American visual cultural memory. One, taken by Associated Press photographer Nick Ut in 1972, is of unclothed and burned nine-year-old Kim Phuc Pan Thai who is running, screaming after a napalm attack. She survived with burns over 65% of her body. The other, by photojournalist Eddie Adams, won a Pultizer Prize in 1969, and shows South Vietnamese National Police Chief Brig Gen. Nguyen Ngoc Loan executing a Viet Cong officer with a single pistol shot in the head in Saigon, Vietnam on Feb. 1, 1968. Those who were adult during this period can’t visualize one of these images without conjuring the other. Their power to signify may have been so great that they contributed to ending the war.
Another less well known photograph originated the flower and gun equation that has become as iconic in its own way as those above. Bernie Boston, who was working for the Washington Star on Oct. 21, 1967, took the image he called "Flower Power” of antiwar protester and teenage actor George Harris sticking carnations in the rifle barrels of soldiers guarding the Pentagon. The eloquence of the concept insured its permanence and evolution into the enduring guns and roses mental image incorporated in this artwork.
“Have a Heart” wrenchingly merges images and concepts which would be meaningless without knowledge of the iconic visual imagery described above. If it is correct that some art requires a knowledgeable perceiver, then it will add to the pathos of this artwork to know that the Viet Cong officer killed by the General had previously killed members of the General’s family.
The literal definition of this work is “cartoon,” meaning a drawing intended as satire, caricature, or humor, but that term has come to be trivializing in our language despite covering some of the works of figures such as Goya and Hogarth. Some of this body of Andrew Leipzig’s work transcends visual punning and does, in his words, “Get people to think.”
Don Mistretta and Andrew Leipzig at the Mistretta Gallery
435 Forest Avenue
Locust Valley, NY