Construction Sites, a solo exhibition of paintings and works on paper by New York City-based artist Gwyneth Leech, explores the incremental yet rapid high-rise building process as the city
undergoes extensive physical and demographic changes. This timely exhibition focuses on the visual drama of construction sites across Midtown Manhattan.
In 2015, the construction of a 42-floor building began outside Leech’s studio window on West 39th Street. Her first impulse was to move. Instead, she decided to stay and make paintings of the process as the new building went up and blocked her view. “I started calling it the Monolith. It had this slab-like quality, this immovability — and it began to represent other monolithic things in my life that couldn't be shifted. It became a metaphor for things we can’t change, but have to learn to live with and to work around in some way.”
Once the Monolith was finished – now the Aliz Hotel on West 40th Street – Leech took her new fascination with construction outdoors, painting at a travel easel on sidewalks across Midtown Manhattan. She has now spent several years documenting skyscraping building projects that are dramatically changing the cityscape, such as Hudson Yards, Billionaire’s Row on West 57th Street, the new MoMA tower on 53rd Street, and One Vanderbilt rising next to Grand Central Station.
Leech returns to certain vantage points dozens of times over many months. It is the in-between building stages that capture her imagination. “It has been an incredible experience to document these massive buildings as they rise from holes in the ground, surrounded and crowned by tower cranes. I feel a kinship to wilderness painters of earlier times - dwarfed by massive forms, striving to capture the light and weather as it changes endlessly across a mountainous landscape. But these mountains are man-made and each time I come back the structures have changed!”
Conversation has become an integral part of the project, as she meets construction workers and local residents intrigued by her choice of subject matter. Her experience documenting New York City’s current building boom has led her to greatly appreciate the work of Clinton Housing Development Company, an affordable housing non-profit focused on the Clinton/Hell’s Kitchen and Chelsea neighborhoods. She is delighted to be partnering with them for the first time, in the presentation of her solo exhibition at their Gallery on West 52nd Street in Manhattan.
Leech’s construction series is the subject of the multi-award-winning short documentary, The Monolith, by film-maker Angelo Guglielmo. Click here to watch The Monolith. Her construction site paintings have been showcased at Sciame headquarters, NYC (2016), in the Kaufman Arcade Space for Public Art, NYC (2018) and in gallery group shows in New Jersey and Massachusetts (2018). Leech has also recently been featured on NY1 television news, in the Village Voice, and in international media.
Leech's drawings, paintings, and installations have been exhibited across the United States and the United Kingdom in numerous museums, commercial galleries, public art, and alternative spaces. She holds degrees from the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, and Edinburgh College of Art, Edinburgh, UK. The recipient of numerous awards and grants, including several Scottish Arts Council awards, a University of Colorado's President's Fund Grant, an Elizabeth Greenshields Memorial Award and a Thouron Fellowship, Leech's artwork resides in private and public collections. Corporate collections include Brookfield, Despé Italia, Metropolitan Walters, NYC Constructors/Banker Steel, Sciame LLC and SL Green Realty.
CHDC Mission Statement
Clinton Housing Development Company (CHDC) builds community by preserving and creating high quality, permanently affordable housing in the Clinton/Hell's Kitchen and Chelsea neighborhoods on the West Side of Manhattan. We integrate community, cultural and green spaces into developments and provide consulting services for larger community initiatives.
We collaborate with neighborhood and citywide stakeholders in both the public and private sectors. CHDC developments promote diversity and economic integration by respecting and valuing the people, history and physical character of the community. www.clintonhousing.org
For additional information, including interview requests and magazine spotlights, please contact Claire Lea at email@example.com, Publicist, Gwyneth Leech Studio.