Shaun El C. Leonardo
(born 1979, Queens, New York; lives and works in New York, New York)
Inspired by superheroes and the athletic icons of his childhood, Shaun El C. Leonardo explores masculine identity through its relationship to power and vulnerability. In a series of performances Leonardo presented between 2004 to 2007, the artist’s alter ego, “El Conquistador” or “El C.”—a combination of a Mexican wrestling Lucha libre-like persona with that of a black athlete—battled the fictional “The Invisible Man.” This foe is a reference to Ralph Ellison’s 1952 novel of the same title. The video features excerpts of performances during this period, all of which took place in front of live audiences. Leonardo has described the matchup between El Conquistador and The Invisible Man as a struggle against physical and metaphorical invisibility in society, and with the complexities of hyper-masculine identity in Latino culture.
Shaun El C. Leonardo received his BA from Bowdoin College (2001) and his MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute (2005). He participated in the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 2004. His solo exhibitions include Champion of the World, Praxis International Art, New York (2013); Battle Royal, Videodromo, Ancona, Italy (2012); Sleeping Giant, Praxis International Art, Miami (2011); El Debut de El Conquistador, La Curtiduria, Oaxaca, Mexico (2008); Self-Portrait Fight, Performa 07, El Museo del Barrio, New York (2007); Shaun El C. Leonardo, Rhys Gallery, Boston (2007); and The Steel Cage Match, LMCC Swing Space Performance, New York (2006). His group exhibitions include superHUMAN, Central Utah Art Center, Ephraim (2012); Greater New York: Five-Year Review, MoMA PS1, Long Island City, NY (2010); Mixed Signals: Artists Consider Masculinity in Sports, Independent Curators International, traveling exhibition (2009–11); Hard Targets: Masculinity and American Sports, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (2008); The S-Files, Museo del Barrio, New York (2007); Emergency Room, P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, Long Island City, NY (2007); Black Alphabet: Contexts of Contemporary African American Art, Zacheta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw, Poland (2006); The Masculine Box and Beyond, LAB, San Francisco (2006); and God Complex: Images of Power, Rush Arts Gallery, New York (2006).