The paintings that artist Peter LaBier is currently showing at the East Williamsburg gallery Safe as part of a two-person show with the artist Amanda Friedman stem from a series of drawings the artist made between the ages of 4 and 14. This Sunday, LaBier is providing an opportunity to see his original source material, releasing a limited-edition zine at the gallery called, straightforwardly, Peter LaBier: Childhood Drawings Ages 4-14, A Selection.
The black-and-white drawings are culled from a large archive the artist recovered from his childhood home in Washington, D.C. They cover a range of subjects, from simple interiors and familial portraiture to more timely (for the era) cultural figures: Saddam Hussien and the rapper Snoop Dogg both make appearances. “There’s a drawing of me that’s kind of in a cowboy-style wanted poster,” the artist told me this week over the phone, before mentioning an “egg baby character that I made up. Some of it is very purely imaginary.”
The artist, who staged an interactive drawing performance this year at the NADA art fair at Skylight Clarkson Square in Manhattan, also pointed to some “problematic” and “strange almost distillations of race that would come up” in the works, mentioning “a page of characters of these sort of white faces.” The artist said, “They are my drawings, but also I think really when [the] aspect of race comes into them, they were maybe representative of things that children like me were being exposed to.”
Elements of these drawings are clearly seen in the works on display at Safe, which often fuse figuration and abstraction in a single painting. The artist told me he was “interested in also showing the original drawings, so people could see how I put them together to make a new painting.” He called the new works a “conversation with myself.”
The release of Childhood Drawings Ages 4-14, A Selection happens this Sunday at Safe Gallery, 1003 Metropolitan Ave, Brooklyn. LaBier’s two-person exhibition with Amanda Friedman is on view there through May 27.