Rena Leinberger


Recent Works

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Statement & Resume

Chicago Tribune, Friday, October 28, 2011, sec 5 cover

Artnet Magazine, April 4, 2005

This passage Prairie Smokeby Victor M. Cassidy
"An exhibition of potatoes"
"Despite their blandness, potatoes are very versatile: they can be boiled, fried, steamed, grilled or baked. They can grow in cold and inhospitable soil. Potatoes have at least some of just about every nutrient, so it is possible to survive a long time only eating potatoes."
comes from a statement by Rena Leinberger, an artist who eats potatoes like all of us, but who also projects her life experience on them in startling ways. Leinbergerís recent solo show at Chicago's ZG Gallery, Feb. 11-Mar. 12, 2005, comes out of a period of illness that has yet to end. For weeks, the artist slept 16 hours every day as she battled "overwhelming fatigue" and migraines. She still has afflictions that baffle her doctors.

While she was ill, Leinberger had a "nutty" idea for a video about potatoes, but was unable to act. Later, she knitted hugely oversized woolen socks as an art piece, but found them unsatisfactory -- until she inserted potatoes. This led to works like Mulch/Scarf, a floor piece that consists of potatoes and knitted strips of wool, alpaca, cotton and silk. The strips in Mulch/Scarf cover the potatoes like a blanket and shelter them like a cocoon. Closely related is Unearth/Hallway, a floor piece in which Leinberger covers potatoes with a 15-ft.-long corduroy patchwork. Leinberger also created and photographed several temporary potato installations. In a lighter mood, she made Into the Cellar, a color video with sound that shows masses of potatoes rolling down a staircase.

The most powerful pieces in this show are also the smallest. Leinberger mounts sheets of sandpaper on 4 x 4 in. and 8 x 8 in. panels of Douglas fir and removes parts of the sandpaper to create simple flat designs. We see a cutaway landscape with small roughly circular openings beneath ground level. These could be potatoes, subterranean chambers or buried bodies.
Leinberger has rejected traditional art materials in favor of pedestrian objects like potatoes, sewer covers, and menís pants. At an earlier time, she altered her sources by making sewer cover shapes from felt, for example, or 13-foot long pants. This made us see the objects afresh, but communicated little more. Her latest show is a major advance, both in terms of invention and of feeling.

VICTOR M. CASSIDY writes on art from Chicago

Chicago Reader, March 4, 2005

Art Letter by Paul Klein (03/03/05)

Rena Leinbergerís show at Zg Gallery is great. Itís subtle, delicate, profound, sad, smart, dumb, reflective, humorous and slightly self-conscious.  And itís all about potatoes. It is thoughtful, frugal, insightful and moving too.  She works with sparse materials andmultiplies their humble beginnings. This is one of those shows that is wonderfully installed, from the simple sand paper and wood Milton Avery-esque drawings, to the small photos of potato diaries and including the sculptures and the video - donít forget to look at the ceiling - youíll be amazed how much content is in this tight gem of a show. (There really is more to this than just potatoes.)

Chicago Tribune, February 25, 2005, sec. 7 pg. 21

New City, February 10, 2005, pg. 18

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