Artist Interaction Series: Lebo
By David Gorman, Park West Gallery Director
Over the years, I have been very fortunate to not only meet, but spend quality time with some of the most prominent contemporary artists of today. This is the first of a series detailing some of my interactions with these artists and offering a more behind-the-scenes view of the art business.
Although I’ve met him in passing once before, the first time I was able to sit down and chat with David “Lebo” Le Batard was on a recent VIP cruise out of Miami. We instantly connected, talking about art history and different artists for which we had a mutual respect. I was instantly impressed with his knowledge, not only about art history, but history in general.
During the cruise, I also had the opportunity to chat with his mother. She is a lovely woman who always encouraged her boys, Daniel and David, to follow their passions. To her credit, both went on to become successful in their own crafts (Daniel Le Batard is a famous ESPN sports reporter). She would always tell her boys, “Don’t try to be the best. Be the best you can be.” When David was a young boy in Miami, they would see all the ships sail into port. She would tell her son, “Your art will be on those ships one day!” A premonition perhaps, as we were sailing on Norwegian Getaway, a ship that proudly displays hull artwork designed by Lebo!
After the cruise, Lebo had invited me to his studio in South Beach. Upon my arrival, Lebo greeted me with paint-covered clothing, ushering me into a one bedroom condo converted into his art studio. Canvases of all sizes at different levels of completion stacked against each other on the walls, a piece in its final stages on a working table, a rack with his T-shirt inventory (he designs T-shirts, too), unique sculptures, boxes of his newly published book, and more were all jam-packed in this humble art studio.
I found that he is very methodical in his approach, as he explained his way of creating and building a collection. He said that 25 percent of his works are iconic paintings collectors have grown to love, while 50 percent are a bit more experimental, using ideas he finds interesting in hopes that they resonate with a collector. The final 25 percent are purely experimental, where he explained that these works will probably not find a collector, but as an artist, he has to create them. Interestingly enough, these were the first works to sell at the following event!
During the visit, I was fortunate enough to see Lebo create. I found it interesting to know that Lebo incorporates the use of solidified paint pens, a technique Itzchak Tarkay shared with Tim Yanke, who then shared it with Lebo. A highlight of my trip was being gifted one of Lebo’s reference books he had used for inspiration over the years. The book was on COBRA, a European avant-garde movement of artists from Copenhagen (Co), Brussels (Br), and Amsterdam (A). Full of dog-eared pages and all, Lebo drew on the inside of the book, dedicated, and proceeded to give me – in my opinion – one of the most priceless gifts I’ve received from any artist.
What I love about Lebo is his ability to not only create works that are aesthetically pleasing, but also deep in meaning. From ancient Egyptian references in one painting, to a nod to Pablo Picasso in another, Lebo uses his unique ability to create works that are balanced in both form and content.
Lebo’s artwork is featured during Park West Gallery’s “The Art of Invention” exhibition, which runs until Oct. 18 at the gallery’s Southfield, Michigan location.