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Alfred Leslie (American, b. 1927) is a multidisciplinary artist and filmmaker who first gained attention for his Abstract Expressionist paintings and collages. In the 1950s and ’60s, he was associated with an emerging community of avant-garde artists and writers, including Joan Mitchell, Larry Rivers, Robert Frank, Frank O’Hara, and Jack Kerouac, with whom he often collaborated. By 1962, Leslie had shifted his attention away from abstract painting to focus instead on the creation of large-scale representational images. He is considered a central figure in the revival of American figurative painting.
In the fall of 1966, a devastating fire destroyed Leslie’s studio-home and all of its contents. This personal loss, as well as the death only a few months earlier of his close friend poet Frank O’Hara, provided fertile ground for artistic inspiration. That year, Leslie began work on The Killing Cycle, a series of paintings and drawings that synthesize fact and fiction to describe the beach scene car crash that ended O’Hara’s life. This narrative tableaux, or suite of “painted stories,” as Leslie terms them, would occupy his attention for the next fourteen years.
The intermittent process of revising and reconfiguring this body of work—originally conceived as a single canvas, The Killing Cycle was expanded to include seven paintings and eventually edited down to three—is, for Leslie, a separate and parallel artistic endeavor. This exhibition contains preparatory works that record his evolving ideas and provide insight into his artistic process. It reunites, for the first time in over twenty years, the six extant canvases that originally comprised The Killing Cycle. At the artist’s request, text panels have been added to the paintings The Cocktail Party and Morning Light, alterations that reflect Leslie’s continued engagement with the material and underscore the open-ended nature of the project.
Major support for this exhibition is provided by the Sadoff Family Foundation.
Additional support is provided by a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Wednesday, August 20, 10 a.m.
All programs take place at the Haggerty unless otherwise noted.