The National Gallery of Art has acquired Number 76S (2019) by contemporary artist Leonardo Drew (b. 1961). Drew is best known for large wall reliefs composed of blackened pieces of wood and often incorporating larger natural wood forms (twisting roots and branches), all packed into tight but sprawling grids that both cover and come off the wall. Number 76S is a work made entirely of cotton, a material that he used early in his career and to which he has recently returned. It joins 14 prints by the artist that were given to the National Gallery of Art by Kathan Brown in 2019.
Drew addresses themes of time, labor, life, decay, order, and chaos throughout his sculptural works. He has explained his attraction to the grid as a matter of practicality as well a testament to the influence of Piet Mondrian, one of his heroes. He is known for bringing the influence of his travels (to Senegal, Brazil, Peru, and Japan) into his work in subtle ways and for his practice of taking apart and reusing previous works to give them new life. In the early 1990s, Drew began to use rust, cotton, and wood in his sculptures. Cotton refers to historical African American experiences of labor as well as his artistic improvisation, both of which have been a central theme in his work since 1994.