LONDON.- Annely Juda Fine Art
, Mitchell-Innes & Nash, and L.A. Louver opened Leon Kossoff: A Life in Painting, a major touring retrospective of paintings by seminal British artist Leon Kossoff (1926 2019) that opened in London in September 2021 and travel to New York and Los Angeles in early 2022. Comprising 58 works, this touring show is the first posthumous and largest exhibition of Kossoffs paintings in a commercial setting to date, and coincides with the publication of Leon Kossoff: Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil Paintings released by Modern Art Press. The exhibition is curated by Andrea Rose, former Director of Visual Arts at the British Council and editor of the catalogue raisonné.
Leon Kossoff is recognised as one of the worlds greatest Post-War figurative painters with an appreciation of lifes everyday activities, finding poignancy and beauty in seemingly mundane urban settings. Born in Central London to a family of Jewish immigrants from Ukraine, his childhood was centered in his working class experiences; helping with his fathers bakery, and then serving in the British military in the 1940s. Following his return to London, Kossoff attended St. Martins School of Art, though he supplemented his studies attending David Bombergs classes at Borough Polytechnic, where he was instructed to focus on experiences rather than just appearances.
Together with the artists Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Frank Auerbach, Michael Andrews, David Hockney and R.B. Kitaj, Kossoff became known in the late 1970s as part of the School of London. Having lived his lifetime in London (from which he rarely travelled), his paintings of his native city are rendered with the familiarity of a close friend. Complicated, sometimes bleak, but always vital and teeming with activity, Kossoffs paintings reflected Londons transformation, stretching from post-war desolation to international affluence towards the end of the 20th century.
What makes Leons works so singular, and indeed so contemporary, is that they give new life to the notion of representational painting, said exhibition curator and editor of the catalogue raisonné Andrea Rose. We see in them the interplay between external reality and internal perception freshly achieved. Kossoff doesnt just perceive the world around him, he regenerates it. Theres a thrill to it, the ordinary made momentous. Perhaps, as he said, everything is beautiful.
Spanning sixty years, Leon Kossoff: A Life in Painting casts light on some of the key moments in Kossoffs career. From postwar bomb and construction sites, to crowded swimming pools, churches, Underground stations and the restless bustle of street life, the paintings passionately chart over half a century of change and development, mostly centered in the London neighbourhoods of Dalston, Willesden, Kilburn and Whitechapel. What makes Kossoffs paintings so contemporary is their interplay between observed reality and imaginative zeal, where, according to Kossoff, all the differences amount to a sort of presence.
The exhibition concludes with some never-before seen paintings of the Arnold Circus area and Kossoffs own back garden, including his last ever painting, Cherry Tree in Spring (2015). In addition to London landscapes, the exhibition includes portraits of the painters mother and father, his wife Peggy (also known as Rosalind), the writer N.M Seedo, his painter friend John Lessore, his faithful sitters Fidelma, Pilar and Cathy, as well as several self-portraits. In all these works, Kossoff searches for a way to bring myriad experiences together in a single image, every brushstroke telling the story of doubt and opportunity that went into their making, all of them threatening to dissolve into fleeting abstraction at any given moment. That's what all painting is about, said Kossoff in a rare interview in 2010. It's space and light occupied by human presences.
Leon Kossoff: A Life in Painting is the third collaborative exhibition of works by Leon Kossoff organised in partnership between Annely Juda Fine Art (London), Mitchell-Innes & Nash (New York) and L.A. Louver (Los Angeles). Previous traveling exhibitions co-presented by the three galleries include Leon Kossoff: Recent Works 1999 - 2010 (2010-2011) and Leon Kossoff: London Landscapes (2013-2014).