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Leon Richmond's Famous American Soups

Updated: Jul 26, 2023

Works by Leon Richmond

On view July 7 - July 29, 2023

BNSF Gallery

Artist Statement:

Why is when, and now is why, and we will ALWAYS want, AND all is “What the holy crap!” Never has this been an obstacle for lucid critical or crucial thought for whom the dumbbell tolls in the skies of material wantonness. Q: How did we even get here? The needs, creeds and greeds of all the wants are re-assembled in this body of work. Faux luxury facilitated by dead corporate machines like Sears, JC Penny’s and Montgomery Wards with 1200 page catalogs are a good place to begin perhaps. Paper bricks printed on glossy non-archival paper layered to the sky for empire building. If aliens from outer space were to visit us right now (PLEASE help us now!), many of their questions could be answered in those catalogs. Core samples have been gathered in these non-fine art things and born again from merely rummaging through the grave yards of consumable "goods" re-swapped for more $$ in the stores of thrift and performing fleas. By the process of cultural anthropology, many of these cheap consumer goods have been given a new life, again to adorn the walls and tables of mainstream America. The artist has found inspiration in the cheap stuff of yester-year, thusly re-arting the stuff that was mass-produced to give the façade of style and class. So hurry! We’re running out of stuff fast!

The white middle/upper/other classes examined have been recorded in both the good and bad books of history and consequently flushed out the birth canals of the unimaginative landfills (progress). Facsimiles with objective meanings defy our understanding in the rubbish now, yet provide proof-positive of who we were, who we are and what we mostly still want to be. So uselessly useful in their time now become "utilitarian fine art" again for their utilitarian purpose in the third place. Artistic alchemical license has freely given the artist a full-on-all-out-all-American stratagem with these junk store findings. America in its most peculiar vintage hour… American at its final artistic process…

So for now, we look to the past for where we went wrong, right and/or left. Based on the hunting and gathering of antiquated pictorial evidence, allegorical signifiers, aggressive branding and personal insider insights, observable clues are given in an absurdist, unflinching and often lowbrow way for your viewing entertainment. So for now, enjoy!

Artist Bio:

Leon Richmond was born in Defiance, Ohio in 1961. His father moved their large Catholic family from Lafayette, Indiana to Yakima, Washington to open a Burger Chef restaurant in 1967. The subsequent years in the 1970’s spent over a hamburger grille and deep fryer, serving an eager and hungry public Happy Meals, cheap collectibles, sugar and grease, would in due course help inform his art work tremendously. After graduating high school in 1980, Richmond continued working at his father’s Burger Chef, eventually enrolling in Yakima Valley Community College. After being expelled for poor grades and attendance, his father insisted that he attend Shoreline Community College in Shoreline, Washington (a suburb south of Seattle) to study accounting and become a CPA. After four years, he eventually graduated in the top 50% of his class. Not pursuing an accounting career at that time, Richmond worked odds jobs around Washington State, mostly working 12 years in three different Alberstons grocery stores around Washington State. In hindsight, his time spent in the grocery store business would be as equally informative on his art as was the time working at his father’s Burger Chef. The grocery stores provided a more or less museum of pop culture and capitalism to critique. Plugging along with his life like a cog in a machine, he began attending art walks in downtown Seattle around the mid-1980’s. It was around this time when he developed a curiosity for contemporary art, at first as a distraction to his monotonous life. But it would eventually develop into a full-blown passion. The years that followed, he would spend countless hours in art museums, galleries, watching documentaries and reading at the Seattle library.

After years of working a string of brain draining and soul sucking jobs, married and divorced twice by now, he unenthusiastically took a job as an accountant in 1997. In 2006, Richmond came to Norman, Oklahoma to visit an old high school friend. Wanting a new start, he applied for and eventually accepted a Staff Accounting II position at The University of Oklahoma.

Continuing his passion for art anywhere he could find it, he didn’t start making any until fairly recently. It wasn’t until he befriended Prof. Bob Dohrmann in The School of Visual Arts in 2016, who ultimately encouraged Richmond to, “Start creating stuff, why not?” With absolutely no natural talent in any of the traditional fine arts, such as drawing, painting, sculpture, printmaking and ceramics (he does have “some” digital art knowledge), Dohrmann suggested that Richmond turn his decades long hobby of thrift store, antique and LP record collecting into an art practice. After completed 30 pieces, Prof. Dohrmann insisted that Richmond exhibit his work and offered to assist him in finding venues. Richmond was very reluctant, but eventually agreed. Completely self-taught, the work presented is this exhibition is the product of Richmond’s obsessive work ethic since May, 2018. Introverted and humble by nature, he has no plans to stop “creating stuff” anytime soon.

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