It was less than three years ago, while doing my usual Chelsea gallery rounds, popping in and out of all of those frosted-over doors without knowing what’s inside, that I first stumbled upon the incredibly intricate, deeply visceral wooden sculptures of Leonardo Drew at Sikkema Jenkins on 22nd Street. Totally blew me away. Then last Friday afternoon, as I was sampling the scores of new fall exhibitions that just opened throughout the Chelsea gallery district, I entered Sikkema Jenkins and was thrilled to see that Leonardo Drew is back (already!), with an enormous new show. Once again, totally blew me away. In fact, even more so.
The Leonardo Drew exhibition takes over the entire sprawling space at Sikkema Jenkins, and is dominated by a single, massive, site-specific installation, called Number 161, made from thousands of of huge, charred-black chunks and planks of wood, that knocks you for a loop as soon as you walk in the door (I thought for a second there had been some sort of disaster!) and extends through the main gallery all the way into the back. You have to climb through and duck under it to get into each gallery, the smell of wood pervades the space, and it all feels more than a little dangerous. The woman working there told me it took more than a month for Drew to install the piece, and I completely believe it.
There are also a dozen or so of Leandro Drew’s explosive wall sculptures at the Sikkema Jenkins show and, like his previous pieces I’ve seen here, remind me of an aerial view of some sort of grim, post-apocalyptic landscape, made up of bits of craggy trees and roots, splintery blocks and planks and plywood sheets, often burnt, always rough-hewn. In one piece, Drew uses shiny, riveted metal, providing sharp contrast. It could all be just an insanely-detailed downer, and yet there’s a vibrancy to Drew’s work as well, an undeniable energy, as if they’re bursting from the walls. If you’re gallery-hopping in Chelsea any time over the next month, I highly recommend checking it out.
The Leonardo Drew exhibition will be on display at Sikkema Jenkins until Friday, October 12. Sikkema Jenkins is located at 530 West 22nd Street, between 10th and 11th Avenues, and is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10::00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. More info on the show can be found on the gallery website.