Michael Leonard’s “Blind” Calls For Action

BlindTitleAn exhibition in the Art and Music Library Gallery at the University of Rochester, Blind, appears to the passerby to be a collection of black acrylic blocks surrounding a pedestal holding what looks like fold-out postcard cameras. Blind requires viewers to take action to absorb any of the images in the exhibit.  Aside from knowing that you need spend time in the gallery to understand the work, you can’t get the gist from just walking by.  Leonard’s primary goal in image-making is to create spaces that encourage the viewer to participate with the piece outside the traditional “rules of the gallery,” and in this exhibit has certainly achieved this goal.

A post on his personal blog from October 2011 muses the following:

“OK, thinking caps on.

What would you think of a piece of artwork that literally was invisible until you made an active choice to interact with it. I’m not talking about the lights are off so you can’t see it, I’m saying that you could locate the piece on the wall, but nothing could be defined about it.

I’ve been working on this idea for a little over a year and a half now, so I’ll be able to post some finished images soon…”

Two years later, we see the result:

Here, an image is revealed by the use of a viewing machine. Viewers are available on a pedestal in the center of the room.

Here, an image is revealed by the use of a viewing machine. Viewers are available on a pedestal in the center of the room.

The exhibit amplifies and examines an individual’s tendency toward passivity or action, and begs us to consider how we interact with our surroundings, and how quickly we are inclined to pass judgement.  The content of the images brings these considerations into a bigger picture, and calls us to question our own involvement and understanding around issues of social inequality. The Sage Art Center blog writes:

”Blind” addresses the socialized behaviors of isolation and dehumanization in the midst of social change.  Currently focusing on the debate on human rights as they pertain to marriage equality and the fact that true social change needs an engaged society; the viewer is put in the position have having to make an active choice while in the gallery to either engage or not.  The engaged viewer gains full access to everything in the gallery.  If choosing the latter the viewer themselves becomes one of the isolated, not being able to view any imagery.

Leonard has a BFA in Photographic Illustration from Rochester Institute of Technology and an MFA in Visual Studies from the Visual Studies Workshop. Leonard is an Adjunct Faculty member at SUNY Brockport where he has taught photography and web design, is the Collections Manager at the Visual Studies Workshop, and is  the Studio Manager at the University of Rochester Sage Art Center. See more of Leonard’s work here.

We hope that you go and experience Blind for yourself, and think about how you can become even more positively engaged in your day to day lives!

This exhibition will continue until January 14th.

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