Behind the Artist: Leslie Lew

Hailing from the distinction of the Chicago Imagists, the East Village movement, and the vogue of 1960s commercial culture, Manhattan-born artist, Leslie Lew, captures the nostalgia of yesterday with a unique painterly aesthetic.

To Lew, history originates in supermarket aisles, comic books, matchboxes, and bright-eyed comforts.

Leslie Lew exhibited at the YAA/Young at Art Museum in 2014.

“My work is about our memories, our culture, our taste,” says Lew. “It’s about reaching us.”

Born in 1953, Lew moved throughout New York City, New Jersey, and Chicago before attending the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. As a graduate understudy of Ray Yoshida—renowned contemporary and developer of “comic collage”—Lew found herself working among the brazen Pop collective, the Hairy Who. Positioned amidst the artistic giants of mid-century America, Lew learned to look beyond the surface of everyday materials. Unlike the objects she examined, Lew’s artistic trajectory proved to be anything but commonplace.

“True Love” (2010), Leslie Lew.

Lew is the innovator of “sculpted oil,” a technique that fuses the precision of paint with the dense contour of sculpture. Lew’s sculpted oil process is meticulous. The artist begins by sketching a detailed concept on canvas, then applies layers of white paint to construct the image outwards. Lew’s technique obscures the boundaries between two-dimensional painting and sculpture, mirroring the artist’s scrutiny of popular versus high culture.

For more insight into Leslie Lew, below are three details highlighting the artist’s practice and person.

Warhol’s Inner-Circle

As a graduate student, Lew was invited by the State University of New York (SUNY) to participate in a semester-long studio intensive in New York City. The program invited well-respected artists to visit the studio and offer their critiques to the students. It was during Lew’s intensive at SUNY that she became acquainted with the precocious Neo-Expressionist painter, Jean-Michel Basquiat. The artist introduced Lew to the creative culture of the East Village and most notably, Andy Warhol.

“Tomato Soup/Campbell’s Soup Can—Ode to Warhol” (2015), Leslie Lew.

In 1984, Warhol invited Lew to exhibit a series of miniature sculpted oil paintings on matchboxes alongside himself, Basquiat, and Keith Haring. Lew exhibited 10 matchboxes in a range of subject matter—from Raphael’s “Madonna and Child” to Wonder Woman. The historic collaboration prompted Lew’s first solo exhibition at Sensory Evolution Gallery and a swift rise to artistic stardom.

Unlike the distant persona that Warhol commonly exhibited, Lew remembers the Pop icon as being an unmistakably kind and generous man.

“Animal Crackers” (2011), Leslie Lew.

In 2015, the U.S. Embassy in Wellington, New Zealand included Lew’s artwork, “Animal Crackers,” in its “Iconic Images” exhibition. Featured alongside works by Warhol, Chuck Close, and Robert Indiana, Lew’s inclusion further cements her place in the Pop Art movement.

International Exhibitions and Publications

Lew has been featured in dozens of solo and group exhibitions throughout museums and galleries across New York City, London, Los Angeles, Palm Beach, and Chicago, including the Flat Iron Gallery, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Guggenheim Museum. Lew also regularly takes part in sponsored museum lectures.

“Cowboy Boot 3-D” (2017), Leslie Lew.

Most recently, Lew was selected to participate in the Westchester Biennial and Art Basel Miami. In 2013, Artspace Virginia Miller Galleries honored Lew with a solo retrospective.

“Marilyn” (2016), Leslie Lew.

As a tribute to the artist’s ingenuity, Lew’s work is memorialized in multiple art history publications: the “Encyclopedia of Living Artists in America,” the Guggenheim Museum’s “Comic Release—Negotiating Identity for a New Generation,” and “The Martin Z. Margulies Collection” alongside Willem de Kooning, Joan Miró, Alexander Calder, Cy Twombly, and Roy Lichtenstein.

Striving for Tolerance

In 2013, Lew received a grant to write and illustrate a children’s book called “Buki’s Garden.” The book addresses bullying in schools and encourages children to be mindful of differences.  Since its publication, Lew has integrated the book’s anti-bullying message into interactive workshops for children at hospitals and community centers across the United States.

To add a Leslie Lew to your collection, contact one of our gallery consultants at (800) 521-9654 ext. 4 during business hours or email sales@parkwestgallery.com for inquiries after hours.

Leave a comment

Prove you\'re human. *

Latest News

  • Artist Michael Cheval Tells the Stories Behind His Fall Art

    Many artists are drawn to the unique colors and sensations of autumn, and that includes Absurdist artist Michael Cheval.“I love autumn,” Cheval says. “I love the season when colors are ...
    Read More
  • Meet Scott Jacobs: The Original Harley Davidson Artist

    Scott Jacobs is internationally recognized for his photorealistic artwork of everything from wine bottles to Harley Davidsons, but he knows art is about so much more than just capturing ...
    Read More
  • Experience Fall With the Art of Slava Ilyayev

    Fewer artists are able to capture the changing leaves, the crisp air, and romance of fall better than Slava Ilyayev.Park West Gallery is celebrating the turn of the season with ...
    Read More
  • Claude Monet Is Coming To Detroit—With The Help Of Park West Gallery

    Park West Gallery is bringing one of the founding fathers of the Impressionist movement to the gallery’s hometown—Detroit.Park West Gallery and the Park West Foundation are sponsoring “Monet: Framing ...
    Read More
  • Dominic Pangborn Selected to Honor Blessing of Father Solanus Casey

    Art and religion have a long-standing history. Artist Dominic Pangborn will join that time-honored tradition by creating artwork of a beloved Detroit priest on his way to becoming a saint.Pangborn ...
    Read More
  • 4 Tips on How to Plan the Perfect Cruise

    Did you know that October is “Plan a Cruise Month”? It’s a worldwide event—first started by the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) in 2016—focused on teaching both new and ...
    Read More
  • Park West Museum Features Yaacov Agam Exhibition

    Park West Gallery is inviting the public to experience the kinetic art of renowned Israeli artist Yaacov Agam in its newly-renovated gallery and museum.A special exhibition, “Agam,” will run ...
    Read More
  • Art News: Rome Creates Art Exhibition for the Blind

    The art world is full of fascinating exhibitions, intriguing discoveries, and moments that shape history. Here are some of the latest news items making headlines this week. New Exhibition Designed for ...
    Read More
  • How Yaacov Agam Became a Warrior For Truth (With a Little Help From...

    When “The Algemeiner,” one of the foremost Jewish newspapers in the world, announced they wanted to honor famed Israeli artist Yaacov Agam with their 2017 “Warrior for Truth” ...
    Read More
  • Park West Supports the 2017 Amelia Island Jazz Festival

    Enjoy the sounds of today’s top jazz performers and the sights of artwork by renowned artist Alfred “Alex” Gockel during the 2017 Amelia Island Jazz Festival.The annual jazz festival, held ...
    Read More
  • Park West Foundation Fosters Future Generations

    Less than 10 percent of Michigan’s foster care children who graduate high school enroll in college. Less than 1 percent of those who do go on to college will graduate. ...
    Read More
  • Art News: Critics Weigh in on ‘Loving Vincent’

    The art world is full of fascinating exhibitions, intriguing discoveries, and moments that shape history. Here are some of the latest news items making headlines this week. Critics Praise Painted Visuals ...
    Read More