Time Out New York / Oct 9–15, 2008

Leigh Ledare

The dismissive title of Leigh Ledare’s follow-up to his New York solo debut in April gives the lie to the complex emotional landscape the show presents. Building on the edgy subject matter explored previously in his book, Pretend You’re Actually Alive, Ledare includes photographs, videos and assemblages that make further reference to his notoriously close relationship with his mother, Tina Peterson, a former ballet prodigy tormented by her subsequent career decline. But his latest work also begins to point in new directions.

In “Personal Commissions,” Peterson is present only as an ideal. For this photographic series, Ledare commissioned women—contacted via personal ads—to direct shoots of him in their apartments. That he considers his collaborators surrogates for his mother isn’t explicit in the results, which are split between the overtly sexual and the gently suggestive. Untitled (Thea Westreich) also depends on an outsider’s input. In this photo from another ongoing series, Westreich, an influential art consultant, poses Ledare with other works she owns.

If these works comment straightforwardly on the parallels between economic and erotic exchange, the videos Shoulder and The Gift constitute subtler meditations on voyeurism and the performance of emotion. In Shoulder, Ledare offers Peterson a sympathetic embrace as she mourns some unstated loss. For The Gift, he recuts his mother’s abandoned attempt at a soft-core flick until the bare bones of its amateur construction show through. Both pieces are uncomfortable viewing, but the confusion they provoke is elemental.

Image: Leigh Ledare, Ribbon and Flowers, 2008