Leslie Roberts: FYEO, September 10 – October 29, 2016

Leslie Roberts (b. 1957, Goldsboro, North Carolina; lives Brooklyn, New York) has exhibited her work in solo and group exhibitions throughout the United States for the past 25 years, including at Art in General, Brooklyn Museum, Bruce High Quality Foundation, Dam Stuhltrager Gallery, Davidson Contemporary, Eyewash Gallery, Hallwalls, Holiday Gallery, Janet Kurnatowski Gallery, Lyons Wier Gallery, Pierogi Gallery, PPOW Gallery, Rotunda Gallery, Sideshow Gallery, Swiss Institute, Weatherspoon Art Gallery, and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, among many others.

Roberts has received awards from Ragdale and Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, where many of the works in this exhibition were conceived and produced, as well as Pratt Institute, Yaddo, Yale, and Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture. Her work has been discussed in publications such as Artforum, The Brooklyn Rail, dArt International, NY Arts Magazine, Sculpture Magazine, and TimeOut London. Roberts is a professor at Pratt Institute, where she teaches Foundation Light, Color and Design. She holds an MFA from Queens College and a BA from Yale University.

My paintings translate words into visual language. These panels with texts and accompanying abstract structures might be called illuminated manuscripts of the everyday.

Written in these recent paintings are collections of ambient found language: fragments from street signs, junk mail, end user licensing agreements, email, labels, subway ads, receipts, newspapers, and instruction manuals. Transcripts of fine print from the relentless flow of information surrounding us are used to derive a personal abstract vernacular.

Each panel is a slate on which penciled and inked text and notations accompany resulting geometric configurations of acrylic gouache paint. I print columns of letters and code them into corresponding columns and rows of painted geometry. In some paintings the same text is coded in more than one way. Different systems and layerings of visual elements–color, mark, shape, division—yield crystalline structures, linear networks, and other abstract dialects.

These works originated with small studies on graph paper in my datebook, made while riding the subway. To escape my habits of composition, I played games with numbers, randomness, and, finally, words. The results led to work with a crazy logic, part text and part visual intensity, that I’m still pursuing after more than a decade.

About the Paintings’ Texts:
Some texts document a journey or a particular place. Others are rosters of related fragments from disparate sources: instructions, guarantees, regulations, warnings. There are lists of acronyms, rules, book titles, artists, names of streets, and names of trees. These collected scraps from our language environment may be banal, poetic, nostalgic, ominous, or ironic.

It takes close looking to make out words from the lettered stacks. The paintings can be seen without being read. The texts are a kind of deep background, “fine print,” like some of their actual sources. There is resonance for me in these texts. But I hope the works as a whole, with their regimented tangles of notation and paint, have a visual presence requiring no glossary.