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Leopold Plotek’s titles invoke antiquity, scripture, mythology, Jewish mysticism, and Artie Shaw-and eclectic list that parallels the wide-ranging pictorial allusions of his mysterious, audacious paintings. Plotek aspires to the drama, seriousness, and sensuousness of the Venetian Renaissance and the High Baroque, ambitions that these days are usually synonymous with postmodernist irony and appropriation. The Montreal based Plotek, however, neither quotes verbatim nor updates historical compositions. Instead, he strives to invent in his own abstract language the qualities of past art that he admires-he casts the Grand Manner into late-20th-century terms and he filters the highest of high art through high modernism, all with street smart overtones.

Murky, hot color, lush paint handling, and dry, broken surfaces trigger associations with Venetian prototypes without reproducing them. Space is unstable; "foreground" and "background" change places. Figures, gestures, even narratives are implied but not depicted-sometimes, a human presence survives as just a memory.

In The Trip Here and Back, Plotek wrenches a vertiginous dream image of Italy out of a loose structure of dully glowing planes. Evocative shapes briefly pull free and then subside. A tall, slender tower turns a dark, luminous expanse into sky, arcades evoke the sheltered streets of Bologna, and something vaguely figure like lurks in a corner, yet the painting remains essentially abstract. Plotek’s approach is a high-risk proposition, but when he succeeds-as he often does-this artist achieves resonant, disquieting images that both demand and reward sustained attention.


Leopold Plotek: Artist’s Talk

 Leopold Plotek gives an intimate talk at the McMaster Museum of Art, following his 2014 exhibition entitled “Workingman’s Dead: Lives of the Artists.” He delves into detail about the particular works of this exhibition, which were inspired by the lives of artist’s in 20th century Russia, and comments on the historical context of his subject matter. 

New York Studio School Talk, 2008

 In 2008, Leopold Plotek gives a talk a the New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture, delving into multiple subject matters, including past works of his, his subjects, his inspirations, his development as an artist, the ideas behind his paintings, and others. The audio may be hard to understand from time to time, if you click on the "CC" option at the bottom right of the screen, then go to "Settings", you can select "English" in order to better follow the conversation through the YouTube generated subtitles.