Black Drawls, the first large-scale presentation of artwork by Chicago-based David Leggett, presents paintings, drawings, ceramic sculptures, wall decals, and installations that challenge hierarchies of taste and power in art and popular culture. Drawing on a rich legacy of humor and satire created by forefigures such as painter Robert Colescott, and comedians Robin Harris and Richard Pryor, Leggett tackles many themes head on: race, racism, art history, popular culture, hip-hop, political movements, and sexuality, among others.
Utilizing the surfaces of his paintings and drawings as an empty plane onto which he drops a series of iconic and intertwined references, Leggett layers juxtapositions that are funny, absurd, and cuttingly poignant. These references come in the form of witty caption-like text, illustrated figures, collaged images, and abstract shapes, and are often accompanied by the use of craft materials such as glow-in-the-dark paint, googly eyes, and glitter. When once asked to describe his work to a stranger, Leggett responded “I would tell them it’s everything wrong with the world in bright colors.” Also working with repeated imagery, Leggett uses the connected familiarity of one face in several works as a subject, spectator, and commentator.
The exhibition also includes a gallery of references, sources, and influences, including historic and recent comic book pages and cartoon stills; artworks by artistic forebearers; classic and obscure films of black comedians’ routines; photographs; items of clothing; Leggett’s collection of popular culture figurines and stuffed toys.