Shaun Leonardo’s artwork negotiates societal expectations of masculinity and notions of achievement, collective identity, and the experience of failure. His performances are invested in a process of embodiment. He often invites the public to participate in physical reenactments locating current, tragic events (deaths of young men of color at the hands of the police) within their bodies through gesture and voice. The intent is to experiment with different forms of embodiment in order to explore the translation of trauma onto other bodies or onto another scene. Essentially, he interrogates audience members’ memory of these tragedies to unpack the complexity of how one internalizes trauma, and in doing so, attempts to restore a sense of humanity to events so often flattened in the media. The collaborative aspect of the work creates a space in which vulnerability and anger give way to willingness, openness, and conversation.

Shaun Leonardo received his BA from Bowdoin College (2001) and his MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute (2005). He attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 2004. Solo exhibitions include Assembly, Recess, Brooklyn, NY (2017); Something I Can Feel, VOLTA NY, (2016); Champion of the World, Praxis International Art, NYC; BattleRoyal, Videodromo, Ancona, Italy; Sleeping Giant, Praxis International Art, Miami, FL; El Debut de El Conquistador, La Curtiduria, Oaxaca, Mexico; and Self-Portrait Fight, Performa 07, El Museo del Barrio, NYC (2007).Group exhibitions include Out of Line, The High Line, NYC; The World is a Mirror of My Freedom, McColl Center, Charlotte, NC (2017); Wound: Mending Time & Attention, The Cooper Union, NYC; A Dark Matter..., Tarble Arts Center, Eastern Illinois University, Charleston, IL, March Madness, Fort Gansevoort, NYC (2016); superHUMAN, Central Utah Art Center, Ephraim, UT; Greater New York: Five-Year Review, MoMA PS1, Long Island City, NY; Mixed Signals: Artists Consider Masculinity in Sports, Independent Curators International, traveling exhibition; Hard Targets: Masculinity and American Sports, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA; The S-Files, Museo del Barrio, NYC; and Emergency Room, P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, Long Island City, NY.


Leonardo’s work negotiates societal expectations of masculinity; achievement; collective identity; and the experience of failure.
- Patrick D. Wilson

Shaun Leonardo uses his body to communicate and portray imagery, in this case, hyper-masculine images of physicality – at the expense of his own physical comfort. The function of the male body has long been a signifier of self-worth. The body affirms and legitimizes his feeling of control and agency over his environment. In this sense Shaun “El C.” Leonardo is performing two very distinct actions at once. On the one hand, he uses performance as a venue for discussion of how men have internalized culture’s preconceived notions of how men should act and appear. And on the other hand, his performances call attention to how these expectations are not only strange, but also not applicable to the rest of men at large. We are not all super heroes, that these spectacles of masculinity contain elements of absurdity and arbitrariness. Leonardo’s work calls our attention to these spectacles not for their immediate content but rather as symbols of our cultural acceptance of an arbitrary and potentially irrational masculine norm.
- Dave Sinaguglia

Even more radical in the context of [sport], however, is the idea of relating masculinity to performance, for the very notion of performance strips [sport] of its spontaneity, its essential naturalness, and subjects a chance series of athletic events, governed by instinctual, precognitive behavior, to the analytical potential of scripting – quite literally, to the process of representation.
- Christopher Bedford