Figurative art drawings
Detail of "Cradle" by Leah Yerpe

Contemporary artists and figurative art > Leah Yerpe puts her signature spin on clusters of figures in aerial interconnectivity.

By Allison Malafronte

LEAH YERPE (b. 1985, may not be the first artist to arrange clusters of figures in aerial interconnectivity, but she is the first to put a signature spin on the subject: her black-and-white charcoal drawings are highly detailed, large-scale — some standing as tall as 13 feet — compositions that move with monumental grace, energy, and lyricism.

Contemporary figurative art - Leah Yerpe
“Corvus,” charcoal on paper, 72×72 inches, 2013

This New York-based artist’s works are not necessarily literal but rather symbolic of social and psychological human conditions. Some are tangled in unruly cycles of unconscious thought, while others seem to be captured in moments of deep calm and contemplation.

Contemporary figurative art - Leah Yerpe
“Sickle,” 2017, charcoal on paper, 72 x 72 in., Anna Zorina Gallery (New York City)

Most of the figures Yerpe portrays are holding on to others, insinuating either collaboration or complicity in their cycle of emotions. Ironically, often the people they are fighting against, or clinging to, are themselves. We see this in “Sickle,” for instance, where a young man is working both with and against himself as he tumbles down and reaches up in equal turns of determination and defeat. The reality of the situation is open to interpretation.

Contemporary figurative art - Leah Yerpe
“Heron,” graphite and ink on paper, 50×38 inches, 2010

“I want there to be as many meanings in my drawings as there are viewers,” Yerpe shares, “which is why the action and setting are purposefully left ambiguous. Even the mood changes depending on the viewer’s state of mind. But the people are not ambiguous. These are not timeless angels or avatars; they are real, individual people you could encounter on the street or at the mall. They are people you can relate to (if you care to), but you can never really know what is going on inside their heads. I’m convinced most of us can barely understand what’s going on inside our own heads!”

Contemporary figurative art - Leah Yerpe
“Fir Chlis,” graphite and ink on paper, 30×30 inches, 2016

While the artist leaves the background intentionally stark and blank, her figures are created with hyper-realistic detail, defined dimension, and with such sharp clarity and resolution they could be mistaken for digital imagery. Yerpe has earned her technical ability in realistic drawing and painting through many years of practice and study, which includes a B.F.A. from the State University of New York Fredonia and an M.F.A. from Pratt Institute (New York City).

Contemporary figurative art - Leah Yerpe
“Kelp,” charcoal on paper, 72×72 inches, 2017
Contemporary figurative art - Leah Yerpe
Leah Yerpe, “Cradle,” charcoal on paper, 72×72 inches, 2018

Yerpe is represented by Anna Zorina Gallery (New York City).

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