Shaun Leonardo

Champions from childhood, relieved of their crowns

United States

“An inevitable downturn – a falling from grace”

Shaun Leonardo fearlessly dives into meaty and contentious topics like mass incarceration, police use of force, and black masculinity in work that encompasses performance, video, and other formats. A participatory performance at New York’s Guggenheim Museum asked people on various sides of the debate over guns in the US to interact physically as a way of potentially bridging social divides. A lesson in self-defense, which he gave a small group as part of the program at a commercial art fair, concluded in practicing how to escape a chokehold, the hold that resulted in the death of unarmed black man Eric Garner at the hands of a New York police officer on Staten Island in 2014.

A New York resident, Leonardo studied visual arts at Bowdoin College, in Maine, before heading to the MFA program at the San Francisco Art Institute, where he focused in painting. He’s earned spots in coveted residency programs like the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, in Maine, and the McColl Center for Visual Art, in North Carolina. Leonardo has performed at venues as diverse as Performa (the New York biennial of performance art) and commercial art fairs such as Volta, at its editions in New York and Basel, Switzerland. Group exhibitions featuring his work include the traveling exhibition “Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art,” organized by the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, and “Greater New York,” at MoMA PS1, in New York, and many others.