Fan Mail: Alex McLeod

For this edition of Fan Mail, Toronto based Alex McLeod has been selected from a group of worthy submissions.  If you would like to be considered, please submit to a link to your website with ‘Fan Mail’ in the subject line.  Two artists are featured each month—the next one could be you!

Alex McLeod. "Jungle," 2011. C-print. 36 × 36 inches. Courtesy of the Artist.

My first look at Alex McLeod’s work immediately reminds me of the photographs of James Casebere and Thomas Demand. Like these contemporaries, I assumed McLeod created these elaborate environments in his studio and photographed the resulting dioramas. Yet, there are textures, forms and lighting in these landscapes that defy the logistics of this approach. In Jungle, bulbous, glassy objects appear to float throughout the scene, reflecting light from far more sources than seems possible. Concentric circles pattern innumerable surfaces with detail beyond the scope of any human hand. It was a small flock of birds in the upper left corner, though, that finally led me to investigate the specifics of McLeod’s process in creating these whimsical environs.

McLeod uses various 3D modeling programs to construct computer-generated imagery, sometimes using appropriated models from online sources. Of his approach, the artist explains, “I wanted to negotiate a space between complexity for details sake, and simplicity for aesthetics sake, like baroque meets cartoon.” While he exploits technology to achieve hyperreal detail and attention to lighting, viable representations of familiar materials like wood and water render a more accessible reality. Moderating the dichotomy between real world and fantasy, McLeod seamlessly integrates moments of commonplace and virtual realities. While some of these environments exude lightheartedness – epitomized by bright, candy-like colors and playful forms reminiscent of scenes from the 1971 Willie Wonka & the Chocolate Factory – others nod to more ominous circumstances.

Alex McLeod. "Copper Cavern," 2011. C-print, 36 x 36 inches. Courtesy of the Artist.

McLeod exhibits these imagined landscapes as large-scale digital C prints; his smallest works are 32 x 48 inches. The physical size of his work facilitates the viewer’s transition into an alternate reality, by forcing engagement with unfamiliar details in the context of a somewhat recognizable world.

Alex McLeod: Distant Secrets opens at Angell Gallery in Toronto, Canada on August 25th.