Leslie Lew: American Original Follows a 3,500-Year-Old Tradition

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Leslie Lew, Wonder Woman Making a Splash, Sculpted Oil on Canvas, 60 x 36 inches, 2012

Leslie Lew, Wonder Woman Making a Splash, Sculpted Oil on Canvas, 60 x 36 inches, 2012

American Pop artist Leslie Lew, who has been creating her unique “sculpted oils” for 30 years, actually is following a 3,500-year-old artistic tradition that art historians believe began on the island of Crete, site of the earliest known frescoes.

Unlike paintings done onto walls, frescoes are painted while their plaster base is wet—thus the term, “wet-on-wet”—so that the pigments are absorbed into the drying plaster. Because the pigments are part of the wall, they are not as vulnerable to the myriad threats to paintings applied only on the surface, and they have endured for centuries.

Using the wet-on-wet technique with oil paints, Lew swiftly applies various coats of paint onto the base layers while they are wet, creating a high relief for her special three-dimensional effect.

“I start with a blank canvas that I sketch out with all the drawing and detail. I then go into it by mounding titanium white acrylic paint with brushes to create the forms. I go back with thick oil paint, wet on wet, until I finish the painting. I only work on one painting at a time.

Lew explains that at first, she used a base of layers of oil paint. “The earlier paintings before 1992 were created entirely in oil paint, without the foundation of titanium white acrylic.” But she notes that oil paint can take up to 200 years to dry, this created subsurface problems, so she switched to the quick-drying acrylic for a stable base layer.

Virginia Miller, owner and director of Greater Miami’s longest-established fine art gallery, says that in her more than 40 years’ experience in art she has never seen anyone who creates high-relief oil paintings of nostalgic subjects like Lew. In Miller’s words: “Leslie Lew is truly an American original.”

Leslie Lew: American Neo-Pop Artist

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The Pop art movement, thought to have originated in 1947 with the painting “I Was a Rich Man’s Plaything” by Scottish artist Eduardo Paolozzi, emerged in the mid-1950s in Great Britain and by the late 1950s had begun to upstage Abstract Expressionism.

Characterized by such subject matter as mass-produced objects, advertising, comic characters and other aspects of mass culture—think of Andy Warhol’s soup cans and Roy Lichtenstein’s comic-strip characters—Pop art was recognizable and understandable by anyone.

Leslie Lew, who began exhibiting in 1981, follows in the tradition of the earlier American Pop artists by depicting such well-known characters from comic strips as Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Snow White, Popeye, Superman and Wonder Woman. Her other subject matter comes from common early childhood experiences: popular 1940s-era primers and the universally loved Animal Crackers.

Leslie Lew, Sugar Smacks, Sculpted Oil on Canvas, 48 x 36 inches, 2007

Leslie Lew, Sugar Smacks, Sculpted Oil on Canvas, 48 x 36 inches, 2007

Disney characters are some of her favorite subjects. I’m honored to have the approval to create some of the most special Disney images,” she notes.

“All of my work deals with memories and growing up in America,” Lew says. “Disney in the 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s had some of the most beautiful comic covers, much like the illustrated movies that came out from that studio, including ‘Snow White,’ ‘Cinderella,’ and ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.’

“They’re not just relevant today, but are still the most beautifully illustrated comics ever. I feel that I’ve captured these images so they can again be enjoyed by all.”

Leslie Lew’s first exhibition at ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries will open on Friday, May 3, 2013 and will include sculpted oil paintings and sculpture, cast paper paintings and monotypes.

Ed Ruscha, Virginia Miller Discuss Southern California Artists at Museum of Contemporary Art

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Ed Ruscha, Virginia Miller Discuss Southern California Artists at Museum of Contemporary Art

Ed Ruscha, Virginia Miller Discuss Southern California Artists at Museum of Contemporary Art

Virginia Miller discussing the gallery’s current show, “IMPACT: Emotions of Color” with Ed Ruscha, whose exhibition based on Jack Kerouac’s “On The Road” opened at the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami on May 24th. Like the artists in “IMPACT,” Ruscha is associated with the Los Angeles art scene.

Organized by the Hammer Museum of Los Angeles, the Ruscha exhibition also was shown at the Denver Art Museum. The show includes Ruscha’s illustrated edition of the book, along with six large paintings and ten drawings that feature quotations from its text. Supplementing the travelling exhibit are two series of photographs from his books, “Thirtyfour Parking Lots in Los Angeles” (1967) and “Twentysix Gasoline Stations,” (1963).

A review of “IMPACT: Emotions of Color” at ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries will appear in the July-August edition of ArtPulse magazine.

Christie’s Latin American Art Auction Includes Works Shown at ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries

Gunther Gerzso, Verde-Azul-Blanco, 36 3.8 x 28 3.4 inches, 1978, Oil on Canvas

Gunther Gerzso, Verde-Azul-Blanco, 36 3.8 x 28 3.4 inches, 1978, Oil on Canvas

Christie’s Latin American Art Sale scheduled for Nov. 15th and 16th,, 2011 includes two paintings previously exhibited at ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries.

Gunther Gerzso’s “Verde-azul-blanco,” a 36 1/2 inch by 28 7/8-inch oil on canvas shown on page 79 of the auction house’s sale catalog, was featured in “Gunther Gerzso: Defining Mexican Abstractionism,” from February to May 2004. The gallery’s exhibition included 86 paintings, including this geometric abstraction, along with drawings, including many from the artist’s 1935-41 period being shown for the first time.

Considered a pioneer in Latin American abstraction, Gerzso’s notation in the auction catalog states that he is “considered one of the ‘Nuevos Tres Grandes,’ along with Carlos Merida and Rufino Tamayo.” The essay goes on to note the artist’s younger years in Europe, six years at the Cleveland Playhouse, his career as a highly successful set designer for popular Mexican films, and his association with Mexican Surrealists Remedios Varo, Leonora Carrington, Wilfgang Paalen and Benjamin Peret.

Claudio Bravo’s spectacular “Red Carpet,” a 1980 oil on canvas of a shirtless, sprawling man on a scarlet rug, was included in “Master Works 1969-1984” at ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries from October to November 2002. The 51 1/2 by 64 1/8-inch painting is shown on pages 100 and 101 of the Christie’s catalog.

The Chilean artist, who moved to Tangier in 1972, was a master of hyperrealism. His works, which often feature exquisitely detailed young men, Moroccan carpets and pottery, are included in such collections as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and El Museo del Barrio in New York, the Baltimore Museum of Art, and the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in Santiago, Chile.

“It’s always interesting to track what happens to art that has crossed our path,” said Virginia Miller, who has been dealing in fine art since 1969. As Hippocrates noted long ago, ‘ars longa, vita brevis’—our lives are short, but art endures.”