Rouse Visiting Artist Lecture: Zoe Leonard with José Esparza Chong Cuy

Image by Zoe Leonard from Al Rio/To the River, 2016-2021. A black-and-white photograph shows a wide river along the U.S-Mexico border.

Image from Al Rio/To the River, 2016-2021. Approximately 500 gelatin silver prints and 50 chromogenic color prints. Dimensions variable. Courtesy the Artist, Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne and Hauser & Wirth, New York. Support for the artwork has been given by the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne and Hauser & Wirth, New York.

Registration Information
The GSD’s Fall 2021 Public Programs are all virtual and require registration.

Click here to register for Rouse Visiting Artist Lecture: Zoe Leonard with José Esparza Chong Cuy.

The event will also be live streamed to the Harvard GSD YouTube page. Only viewers who are attending the lecture via Zoom will be able to submit questions for the Q+A. If you would like to submit questions for the speakers in advance of the event, please click here.

Live captioning will be provided during this event. 

Event Description

The artist Zoe Leonard will present a work in progress titled Al Rio/To the River and will engage in conversation about the project with curator José Esparza Chong Cuy.

Al Rio/To the River is a large-scale photographic project centered on the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo, in particular the 1,200-mile section of the river that is used to demarcate the international boundary between Mexico and the United States. Begun in 2016 and currently still a work in progress, the work engages in a sustained observation of the water, surrounding landscape, and built environment, including the towns, cities, factories, and infrastructure projects—dams, levees, bridges, irrigation trenches, pipelines, fences, gates, border checkpoints, and detention facilities—built alongside, over, and through the riverbed. Viewed from multiple vantage points, the river is considered as a natural feature, a water resource, a political border, and an inhabited region. The project considers layered histories, complex relationships, and the interconnectedness of life on both sides of the watershed.

The completed work will be exhibited at Mudam, Luxembourg, and Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris in 2022, with an accompanying publication.


Headshot of Zoe Leonard, who wears a blue denim jacket and white shirt.New York-based artist Zoe Leonard balances rigorous conceptualism with a distinctly personal vision in her work, which merges photography, sculpture, and installation. By employing strategies of repetition, shifting perspectives, and a multitude of printing processes, Leonard’s practice probes the politics of representation and display. Leonard explores themes such as gender and sexuality, loss and mourning, migration, displacement, and the urban landscape. Her photography specifically invites us to contemplate the role that the medium plays in constructing history, and to consider the roots of contemporary photographic culture. More than its focus on any particular subject, however, Leonard’s work encourages the viewer to reconsider the act of looking itself, drawing attention to observation as a complex, ongoing process.

Leonard has exhibited extensively since the late 1980s, including solo exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2018), Museum of Modern Art, New York (2015), Chinati Foundation, Marfa, Texas (2013-14); Camden Arts Centre, London (2012); Museum Moderner Kunst Stifting Ludwig, Vienna (2009), Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich (2009); Reina Sofia, Madrid (2008), Dia: Beacon (2008); The Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio (2007); Fotomuseum Wintherthur (2007); Philadelphia Museum of Art (1998); Kunsthalle Basel (1997); Secession, Vienna (1997), and The Renaissance Society, Chicago (1993). Group exhibitions include Documenta IX (1992), Documenta XII (2007), and Whitney Biennials in 1993, 1997 and 2014. Publications include Analogue (2007),  Zoe Leonard: Photographs (2008), You see I am here after all (2010), Available Light(2014), and Survey (2018).

Headshot of José Esparza Chong Cuy, who wears glasses and all-black, and stands with his hands in his pockets.José Esparza Chong Cuy
is the newly arrived Executive Director and Chief Curator of Storefront for Art and Architecture. At Storefront, José introduced a new curatorial framework called Building Cycles, which presents a year-long program of exhibitions and events that explores the notion of building as both place and process, laying the groundwork for new ways of making spaces, places, and relationships with and within our surroundings.

Before his role at Storefront, José served as the Pamela Alper Associate Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (MCA), which he joined in 2016. At the MCA, he co-organized a major collection exhibition to celebrate the museum’s 50th anniversary and curated solo shows of Tania Pérez Córdova and Mika Horibuchi, as well as a major commission with Federico Herrero. With MCA, José also recently oversaw a solo exhibition of Jonathas de Andrade, a collection show of recent acquisitions, and a large-scale retrospective on the life and work of Lina Bo Bardi, co-organized with the Museu de arte de São Paulo and the Museo Jumex in Mexico City.

Prior to the MCA, José was Associate Curator at the Museo Jumex. From 2007-2012 he lived in New York and held positions as Curatorial Associate at Storefront for Art and Architecture, Research Fellow at the New Museum for Contemporary Art, and contributing editor at Domus magazine. In 2013 he was Co-Curator of the Lisbon Architecture Triennial, titled Close, Closer. He is a graduate of Columbia University’s M.S. in Critical, Curatorial, and Conceptual Practices in Architecture.

Anyone requiring accessibility accommodations should contact the Public Programs Office at (617) 496-2414 or [email protected].