York Art Commentary
"Tonight was like other days and nights,
afternoons and mornings; so much
bitterness. One would think these doomed flights
from real life would crash sooner -- such
resistance to people's endurance.
I suppose some need reassurance
that everything is fixed and locked.
But time is change, a concept docked,
like an artist with a pen or stick-
anything makers use’-in space
sending signals; we're all one race,
one sex, one one. But also we're sick,
The tide swelled, began to glisten . . ."
One of 182 sonnets
in Alfred Leslie's:
The first book, Cool Man in a Golden Age, begins with an ellipsis and plunges directly into the circumstances and events of Leslie's life and art in lower Manhattan in the late 1950s. There is no escape from the turmoil, heat, and chaos of events and circumstances. Everything is turned to confront us, as the monumental figures in Leslie's portraits confront us, with their every aspect turned toward us. The sonnet form, echoing Pushkin, shapes that confrontation, embracing a vast territory of human consciousness and action. The book ends, after twelve chapters, in 1966 on the streets outside 940 Broadway as the building is consumed by a fire that killed twelve firemen and destroyed much of Leslie's work.
The second book, Attacked by the Heart, begins, in graphic novel form, with the struggling figure of the artist felled by a heart attack on the same streets, as people obliviously walk around him. What had been tabulated in words, in patterns of rhymes and stanzas of a certain length, is now unfurled in line and color. Even the words are inescapably physical, as they rise scrawled in balloons from the figures. The drawings have a sensual, definitive life of their own, opening up another, ultimately erotic and spiritual, world beyond the possibilities of thought and remembrance.
Commentary by Donald Goddard
Selected Exhibitions of Alfred Leslie's Art Works - Reviewed by Donald Goddard
The Cedar Bar
Alfred Leslie: 1951-1962 Expressing the Zeitgeist
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