Over his long career, Lee Waisler has worked in both a radically abstract style and explored figuration. His early works from the 1960s were socially and politically charged, dealing with momentous historical events such as the Holocaust, the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement. He then moved into abstraction, incorporating a multiplicity of forms, textures and perspectives. It was after a journey to India in the mid-1990s that his works moved toward figuration. Driven by empathy for the human spirit, he turned to portraiture full-force in 2005.
The work in this exhibition consists of portraits of Nelson Mandala, Aung San Suu Kyi, Albert Einstein, Eleanor Roosovelt and Mahatma Gandhi, cultural and political icons who have defined the modern world. Distilled, linear, almost gestural in nature, these portraits aim to transcend the subjects’ iconic status. “When the work is successful, the viewers can project themselves onto the subject,” says Waisler. “Hopefully that connection—that moment when the viewers identify with the subject—will inspire them to act more humanely toward one and other.”
Lee Waisler’s work is included in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; the Tel Aviv Museum of Art; the Brooklyn Museum; the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris; the National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi; and the Indian Museum, Kolkata.
Born in Los Angeles, 1938 | Lives and works in Los Angeles
Five in the World, 2014, acrylic and wood on canvas, 6 x 15 feet/1.8 x 4.6 meters