Zoe Leonard: 100 North Nevill Street

Zoe Leonard’s 100 North Nevill Street, a large-scale camera obscura installed in the Ice Plant, was on view at the Ice Plant from December 2013 through January 2015.

A camera obscura is an optical device, known since ancient times, that uses an aperture admitting natural light into a darkened chamber to project a two-dimensional image onto a flat plane. In Leonard’s installation, a six-inch lens mounted on the building’s southern wall cast an inverted image of the exterior landscape across the floor, walls, and ceiling of the Ice Plant’s cavernous interior. Because the image was a real-time projection of the external environment, patterns of light and shadow—and the appearance and disappearance of clouds, car and train traffic, and people—were in a continual state of flux.

100 North Nevill Street was the final installment of a series of camera obscuras that Leonard created in different sites over a period of several years. These included 945 Madison Avenue at the 2014 Whitney Biennial in New York, Venice, Italy (2012), London (Observation Point, 2012), and Germany (Available Light, 2011).

Zoe Leonard was born in 1961 in Liberty, New York, and lives and works in New York. She has exhibited internationally since the late 1980s. Leonard performed her spoken word piece This is Where I Was, during Chinati’s annual October weekend in 2010. Her exhibitions include Blues for Smoke, Whitney Museum of American Art (2013) and Observation Point, Camden Arts Center, London (2012). In 2007, Leonard was the subject of a 20-year career retrospective at the Fotomuseum Winterthur, in Winterthur, Switzerland, which traveled to the Reina Sofía in Madrid in winter 2008. The first major overview of her career in an American museum, Zoe Leonard: Survey, was on view at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, from March through June, 2018, then traveled to the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, Los Angeles, where it was on view from November 2018 through March 2019.