Israeli artist Leor Grady’s first solo show in New York was exhibited at Y Gallery on the Lower East Side from January 7 – February 5, 2012. Grady created a site-specific installation for a small room in the gallery comprised of simple sculptural objects and threaded drawings exploring questions of longing and belonging. A wall of pillows, a cement house, a gold paper boat, a handkerchief – each imbued with poetic and political meaning – collectively create a meditation on emotional and geographical territory, examining his ties to the Middle East through images of the Dead Sea.
Grady moved to New York City from Jerusalem shortly after graduating from the School of Visual Theater in 1995. He completed his Bachelors of Arts at Empire State College in 2002, and has since shown his work in national and international venues such as Rush Arts Gallery, Exit Art, Dumbo Arts Center and Aljira Center for Contemporary Art.
Currently based in Harlem, Grady describes the distance from his roots in Israel as necessary for a sense of perspective, “free of the familial and familiar.” New York City’s emphasis on the individual contrasts the familial society of his homeland and allows for greater understanding of and appreciation for his own history, culture and identity as an Israeli of Yemini descent. “Along with the ongoing cultural stimulation this distance provides, it also brings a fair amount of longing. This discomfort and longing is the petri dish of my creative urge,” said Grady.
Grady inhabits a physical and psychological place of safety and danger, intimacy and dreams. His multidisciplinary practice uses simple materials and basic gestures to examine emotional experiences and identity politics. In addition to his recent sculptures and drawings, he has produced work in video, photography and text-based projects. His single channel video, In Order of Appearance (2006), presents an ordered list of people in the artist’s life, following the cinematic format of a credit scroll. It begins with his parents, Shulamit and Shimon Grady, and presents a full cast of colorful characters, such as Zion Grady (Manly uncle), Moshe Grady (Funny uncle), Sameul Hagel (Alcoholic), Mrs. Amir (Secret thumb sucker), Anonymous (Ashkenazi rich kid in the swim team) and Sarina Hasdai (Free spirit high school girl). As Grady moves between cities, we discover the spectrum of humanity that has touched his life – from poets like James Baldwin and Langston Hughes, to a homeless flower lady, to others who taught the artist about addiction, growing pains, integrity, tenacity and perseverance. Grady’s humorous and poetic exploration of the human condition has been shown in various screenings at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, the Hafia Museum of Art and most recently, the BRIC Rotunda Gallery, and it is updated with each public presentation.
Grady often revisits projects and themes and reexamines them in new environments. His Untitled (wall) composed of pillows has been shown at various scales in different contexts– as a barrier at Apex Art, as a fairy-tale bed at Hendershot Gallery and as a surface at Rush Arts Gallery. He writes of the reoccurring references to the bed, “When I lay down in bed, my body’s weight presses against the mattress, my head rests on the pillow and I feel the weight of the covers on my body – I am home. The bed is a place of dream, a territory of desires, a place of vulnerability and rest. Where we die and where we are born every day. Where we live and leave.”
His next site-specific project, Untitled (bed), is slated for Spring 2012. Grady has been invited to be an artist-in-residence in the P3 Studio Program presented by The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas and Art Production Fund in Las Vegas, Nevada.
– Tema Stauffer