Paradigm Gallery is pleased to present Sacred Lands, an exhibition of new sculptural works by the artist Drew Leshko, opening March 23, 2018 and remaining on view through May 19, 2018. The exhibition's title is a reference to Leshko's Philadelphia neighborhood of Fishtown, and its ancestral roots as the home to the indigenous Lenni-Lenape.
For more than a decade, Leshko painstakingly documented the rapid re-development occurring in his hometown of Philadelphia, specifically the historical neighborhood of Fishtown. Although Leshko's works are sculptural by nature, he largely considers himself a documentarian, his sculptures echoing the work of legendary documentary photographers Gordon Parks and Bernd and Hilla Becher.
As the forces of gentrification radically transform his neighborhood, Leshko's three-dimensional hyper-detailed sculptures serve as an all-too-necessary archive of the past. Highlighting decaying establishments in a transitional period (often not long before they are repurposed or razed), Leshko's paper and wood recreations act as artifacts of a bygone era, of a disappearing America.
Leshko is particularly attracted to overlooked and oft-neglected sites, the unremarkable buildings which will not be preserved. With past works, Leshko's been drawn to the once-thriving churches that have closed their doors as parishioners have been forced to relocate, and the small local businesses with their classical designs which are now juxtaposed with modern slapdash renovations, as well as the facades and machines of yesteryear. His models splendidly isolate anachronistic architecture, encouraging the viewer to consider history through a unique prism.
For Sacred Lands, Leshko replicates the Kensington Soup Society, a soup kitchen which opened in 1844 and closed in 2008; Penn Treaty Metals, a metal recycling business spanning three generations, the name of which references William Penn's Treaty with the Native Lenape in 1683; and the Edward Corner Marine Merchandise Warehouse, with its hand-painted signs providing a physical reminder of Fishtown's waterfront history. Leshko's sculptures will be complemented by his small-scale reproductions of local signage (for bars, restaurants, VFW halls, and even strip clubs), as well as vintage photographs of historical buildings courtesy of the Philadelphia City Archives.
Leshko's 1:12 dollhouse scale replicas are meticulously crafted, requiring 120 to 160 studio hours to create. He begins each sculpture working from a single photograph as an image reference, but then will discard the photograph in mid-process, relying on memory to complete the piece. His miniatures act as singular physical documents of the buildings and businesses which are sadly proving unsustainable. Leshko's ongoing examination of gentrification and historical preservation (or lack thereof), asks the timely question "in a soon-to-be-forgotten America, what is worth preserving?".