“June Leaf: Thought Is Infinite”, Now Open at The Whitney

June Leaf (b. 1929), Head, 1975.

june Leaf (b. 1929), Head, 1975. Pen and ink and colored pencil on paper, 13 7/8 × 19 7/8 in. (35.2 × 50.5 cm). Collection of the artist. Photograph by Alice Attie

Opening today, at the Whitney Museum of American Art, June Leaf: Thought Is Infinite presents the artist’s remarkable achievement in drawing over the past five decades. In addition to drawings, installed to suggest the way the works have inhabited Leaf’s studio, the exhibition also includes a smaller selection of the artist’s sculpture and painting.

June Leaf (b. 1929), Harvey, c. 2004–05.

June Leaf (b. 1929), Harvey, c. 2004–05. Pastel and charcoal on paper, 29 1/2 × 34 1/2in. (74.9 × 87.6 cm). Collection of the artist. Photograph by Alice Attie

June Leaf’s vision is deeply personal and bravely frank in addressing the frailties of the human condition. Her work falls within a trajectory of the fantastic: the fraught, symbolic mental landscapes introduced into Western art by Hieronymus Bosch and continuing in various strains with Francisco Goya, James Ensor, Odilon Redon, and the Surrealists. Leaf’s imagery frequently suggests a direct and physical struggle between men, women, and unseen forces, with control up for grabs and outcomes uncertain. She often combines ink, charcoal, and chalk with acrylic paint in vibrant colors on mottled, distressed surfaces. With a skittering touch, she builds shape with an almost paradoxically unstable force—her forms can look as if they are in the process of becoming and might dissolve at any moment. Leaf lets the chance of splotches and splatters interact with more deliberate rendering, her virtuosity and control always present.

June Leaf (b. 1929), Man (Dreaming), 1972.

June Leaf (b. 1929), Man (Dreaming), 1972. Acrylic, and brush and ink on paper, 24 3/4 × 39 3/4 in. (62.9 × 101 cm). Collection of the artist. Photograph by Alice Attie

June Leaf (b. 1929), Mother-Ballroom, c. 1978 (detail).

June Leaf (b. 1929), Mother/Ballroom, c. 1978 (detail). Pen and ink, fiber-tipped pen, graphite pencil, rubbing, and colored pencil on paper, 27 × 21 in. (68.6 × 53.3 cm). Collection of the artist. Photograph by Alice Attie

June Leaf (b. 1929), Robert Enters the Room, 1973.

June Leaf (b. 1929), Robert Enters the Room, 1973. Acrylic, collage, gelatin silver prints, and pen and ink on paper, 22 × 28 in. (55.9 × 71.1 cm). Collection of the artist. Photograph by Alice Attie

The show will be on view through July 17, 2016 in the John R. Eckel, Jr. Foundation Gallery on the Museum’s main floor, which is accessible to the public free-of-charge. June Leaf: Thought Is Infinite is organized by Carter E. Foster, Steven and Ann Ames Curator of Drawing, with artist Alice Attie.

June Leaf (b. 1929), Study for Woman Monument, 1975.

June Leaf (b. 1929), Study for Woman Monument, 1975. Pen and ink, and acrylic on paper, 17 × 14 in. (43.2 × 35.6 cm). Collection of the artist. Photograph by Alice Attie

June Leaf (b. 1929), The Tin Barrel, 2015.

June Leaf (b. 1929), The Tin Barrel, 2015. Acrylic, charcoal, and collage on paper, 30 × 22 in. (76.2 × 55.9 cm). Collection of the artist. Photograph by Alice Attie