Once rejected by galleries who told him to return only when he’s famous, Leeroy New’s signature sculptural art is now all over the place in a huge way. The city is crawling with his creatures—spiky, sinuous, and spacey—and not even the further reaches of the Philippines have been able to prevent his creative invasion.
I indiscriminately loved any horror or fantasy film as a child. The best part for me would always be the big reveal of the monster, alien or whatever grotesque creature hunting down the human characters. Perhaps that’s why my work has been described as mythology meets nightmare by way of pop culture.
How has your art touched people?
I was casually walking in full alien regalia on a side street in Hong Kong when I chanced upon a playground which had been “colonized” by overseas workers. The Filipinos who wanted to take selfies with my character were surprised and thrilled to hear me speak their language. It’s incredible how these alien characters, these seemingly displaced bodies, can elicit so many different interpretations from the public depending on the context of the site of their “landing”.
Why are you creating these large-scale, sci-fi structures outside of Manila?
I believe there’s a need to address the disconnect between gallery/museum-based art production and the rest of the Philippines, where these efforts are much needed. I grew up in General Santos, a provincial city in the south, so I have a soft spot for doing work in challenging terrain usually found in the rural areas. The inherent romanticism and nostalgia of these places also inspire me to create my art.
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