Leo Monahan

Inspired by Bauhaus design and color principles, as well as Japanese and Chinese paper arts, Leo Monahan creates modern masterworks of cut and folded paper.

By cutting, folding, and texturizing paper of various weights, and by superimposing the pieces in dimensional collage, Leo gives the objects in his works a palpability they would not possess depicted on a flat canvas. In an old country kitchen, large spoons lean out from their utensil holder, as if hankering for a cook’s hand. A decaying rowboat poses in fugitive relief against the water that threatens to engulf it. Leo’s use of relief is such that some of his most arresting art is white on white.

Most of Monahan’s works, including the kitchens, are prodigies of color. An object’s relief is often heightened by intense tone. Using hot colors liberally in harmony with a few cooler ones, Leo often achieves some of the effects of an abstract. For example, his bigger- and more-colorful-than-life fishing flies seem intended to lure your inner eye.

In recent years, Leo has also enjoyed exploring the sensuous and emotional power of rusts and earth tones, often in images from his boyhood in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Leo’s work has appeared in galleries in California and across the Southwest. His work is now in the Grovewood Gallery in Asheville, NC. His pieces are in numerous private collections and the Smithsonian Institution. The Art Academy of Los Angeles held a 40-year retrospective of his compositions. Leo holds a Life Achievement Award from the Los Angeles Society of Illustrators.

About the Artist: Born in 1933 in the Black Hills of South Dakota, Leo was graduated from high school in June of 1950, the start of the Korean War. He then spent the next four years in the Navy on Far East operations. Shortly after his discharge, he entered Chouinard Art Institute where, with the exception of his first semester, he was a Disney Scholar. In fact, Leo was the first to receive the scholarship offered by Walt Disney, and indeed was awarded the prize every year of his college career! In 1960, he began his career as a graphic designer, and created his first professional paper sculpture for Liberty Records, for whom he went on to do over 1200 record covers. His work has been used by numerous clients in publishing, advertising and promotion and he is still very busy in these areas of illustration. His fine art began in about 1980, and for the most part is based on his memories of life as a young boy at the foot of Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills – a life peopled with miners, loggers, cowboys, farmers, and the Sioux. The work is entirely symbolic of the elements that were around him at that time, especially the plants, animals and artifacts. Unique in portraying these images with the paper-sculpture collage medium, Leo’s techniques are a blend of both Impressionism and Surrealism The recipient of numerous awards, Leo is twice past-president of the Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles, and a recipient of their Life Achievement Award. He is also a 35-year participant of the U.S. Air Force documentary art program, as well as founder of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s documentary art program. He currently resides in North Carolina with his wife, Karen, and his dog, Straigh.