As an avid film binger, Leonard Baby doesn’t have to look too far for references to paint. He scours The Criterion Collection in search of classics to watch on his laptop, pausing his cursor on overlooked moments in films that most would ignore. He does so to bring a suspended drama to these otherwise innocuous scenes, his eye often drawn to romantic comedies that circulated his childhood in the early 2000s: ‘Mean Girls’, ‘The Parent Trap’, ’Princess Diaries’, among others. In every composition, the protagonists’ identities are concealed, as expressive hands always loom over the paintings. When displayed together, with their exacting pastel tones and repeated panoramic scale, they read as one circuitous scene played through the lens of a single director’s vision.
Inspired by some of his favourite still life painters – , and – Leonard attends to chiaroscuro with meticulous dexterity, the abundance of thin painted flecks on skin bringing to mind the fishes scales in Manet’s banquet scene. Or, drawing parallels with Weyant and Serebriakova’s painted assemblages, the subtle white daubs of light caught on glassware is reflected in Leonard’s, too. He works quickly, using acrylics in favour of oils due to their speedier drying time. Painting to Leonard takes on a diaristic sensibility, each composition absorbing his filmic interest at the very moment they were made like daily evanescent thoughts marked on a page.
Leonard associates his colour palette with Looney Tunes cartoons of the 1940s, the pastel tones casting his paintings under an incongruously animated light. He appreciates artists who similarly suspend quotidian scenes in dramatic ways: in painting of a bar scene, the group’s clothing is achieved in bright swathes of primary colours, Katz sparing overly-ladened detail to achieve contour and shadow; or in composition of a window, the lurid red from behind punctures the ochre folds of the curtains in a harmoniously discordant way. You’ll notice how in most of Leonard’s paintings, we witness the goings-on of many debauched dinner parties. Either the tables are immaculately awaiting the reach around of a glutinous hand, or in the midst of being consumed. They exude satire too, as most of the food and drinks for films would have been rendered inedible in favour of dramatic effect.
He’s always searching for suspense. Quite often ominous scenes descend into humdrum normality as the characters are devoid of visible expressions and features. painting of a vacant scene from Disney classic ‘Lady and the Tramp’ often comes to mind when he’s pondering plot shifts, the crossroad emptied of all presence – or, similarly in lesser known pencil study of a window at dawn, the ruffled curtains seem as if they were grasped only moments before. And as your eyes slowly pan across a room of Leonard’s paintings, each disparate scene connects as if in one long film – a dinner table, a hotel room – encouraging us to fill the gaps of apprehension he leaves ajar.
Leonard Baby (b.1996, Manitou Springs, Colorado). Selected Exhibitions include: ALL SMALL, Pamela Salisbury Gallery, Hudson, NY (2022), Eccentric Spaces, The Artist Room, London, England, (2022), I Am American, Kutlesa Gallery, Goldau, Switzerland, (2023), Leonard Baby Loves You, Fortnight Institute, New York, NY (2023), Time, Pablo's Birthday (2023), New York, NY (2023).