Zoe Leonard: Al río / To the River

Zoe Leonard: Al río / To the River

Museum of Contemporary Art Australia

August 11, 2023
Zoe Leonard
Al río / To the River
August 11–November 5, 2023
Museum of Contemporary Art Australia
The Rocks
140 George Street
Sydney NSW 2000
Hours: Saturday–Monday and Wednesday–Thursday 10am–5pm

T +61 2 9245 2400

Zoe Leonard’s Al río / To the River opens this weekend at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA Australia), the first major exhibition of the internationally renowned artist’s work in the Southern Hemisphere.  

Over a period of five years, beginning in 2016, Zoe Leonard (b. 1961, Liberty, US) photographed along the 2,000 km stretch where the Rio Grande/Río Bravo is used to demarcate the international boundary between Mexico and the United States, following the river from the border cities of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, and El Paso, Texas, to the Gulf of Mexico.

Epic in scale, Al río / To the River results from close observation of both the natural and built environments shaped by and surrounding the river; from desert and mountains to cities, towns and small villages where daily life unfolds in tandem with agriculture, commerce, industry, policing, and surveillance.

While the exhibition is anchored to the geographic, social, economic and political realities of this extended region of the Americas, Leonard’s visual meditation on the river resonates with the urgent subjects of borders and migration around the world. Al río / To the River engages with conversations happening in Australia and elsewhere about the impact of human industry and commerce on the natural world, climate change and colonialism on First Nations communities.

The exhibition is curated by Suzanne Cotter, Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia and MCA Australia Curator Megan Robson. Designer Marcos Corrales Lantero, a long-time collaborator of the artist, was commissioned to create the exhibition design.

Al río / To the River draws our attention to the impossibility of binary thinking in a world defined by complexity and in need of empathy.

The exhibition is accompanied by a two-volume publication designed by Joseph Logan and published by Mudam Luxembourg – Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean / Hatje Cantz, Berlin. Presented in their own slipcase, the first volume features Zoe Leonard’s photographs, while the second, edited by Tim Johnson, with a preface by MCA Australia Director Suzanne Cotter and Fabrice Hergott, Director of the Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris, brings together written contributions from 25 international artists, journalists, poets and scholars.

Available at the MCA Store and online.

Zoe Leonard: Al río / To the River is organised by the MCA Australia in association with Mudam Luxembourg – Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean and the Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris, Paris Musées.

Public programs

Artist in conversation: Zoe Leonard and Suzanne Cotter
Saturday, August 12, 2023, 2–3pm
Zoe Leonard discusses her work Al río / To the River with MCA Director, Suzanne Cotter.

Film screenings and discussion: Karrabing Film Collective
Friday, September 8, 6–8pm
Presenting members of the Karrabing Film Collective in discussion, alongside screenings of a selection of their short films. The Karrabing Film Collective is a grassroots, Indigenous-based media group for whom filmmaking provides a means of self-organisation and social analysis. Their medium is a form of survivance – a refusal to relinquish their Country and a means of investigating contemporary social conditions of inequality.

Contemporary photography: process, practice and place
Friday, September 22, 6–7:30pm
A conversation with Peta Clancy (Bangerang people), Simryn Gill, Brett Neilson and Amanda Williams. This panel will consider how contemporary Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists engage with photography’s troubled relationship to land, place and Country, and how they use photographic technologies and practices to envision different relationships between people and places.

Co-presented by MCA Australia and the Power Institute, University of Sydney.

Discussion and performance: Poetry and translation
Friday, October 13, 6–8pm
An evening of conversations with Tim Johnson, poet and editor; Ethan Bell, Wallabalooa poet and producer; Nicole Smede, multidisciplinary artist and cultural producer of Worimi and European descent; and special guests; alongside spoken word performances by a diverse program of poets and writers.

For further information on the events, tours and programs accompanying the exhibition visit mca.com.au

Also on show at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia
A new MCA Australia commission by acclaimed choreographer Adam Linder: Hustle Harder – performed all day until August 20.

MCA Collection: Artist in Focus showcasing work by Australian artists: Joan Brassil, Kevin Gilbert, Simryn Gill, Jumaadi, Tracey Moffatt, Sancintya Mohini Simpson, John Nixon, Leyla Stevens, Alick Tipoti and over 60 bark paintings from the Arnott’s Biscuits Collection showcases the work of Aboriginal artists from the communities of Groote Eylandt, Yirrkala, Galiwin’ku, Milingimbi, Maningrida, Ramingining, Gunbalanya, Wadeye and the Tiwi Islands.

About the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA Australia)    
The Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA Australia) is Australia’s leading museum of contemporary art, dedicated to presenting, collecting, and engaging with the art of our time. Located on the edge of Sydney Harbour, at Tallawoladah, the land of the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation, MCA Australia provides a vital platform for contemporary art and ideas in Australia and beyond. MCA Australia makes contemporary art and ideas widely accessible through its exhibitions, public engagement, learning, access, and social impact programs. The Museum’s Collection, including over 4,600 artworks, is the only public collection in Australia dedicated exclusively to contemporary art. Over a third of the Collection is represented by works by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists.

The Museum of Contemporary Art Australia acknowledges the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation, the traditional owners of the land and waters upon which MCA Australia stands.

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Museum of Contemporary Art Australia
August 11, 2023

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