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Ed Leffingwell Jack Smith Curatorial Files
1962-2010 (Bulk 1993-1998)

Fales Library and Special Collections
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
3rd Floor
New York, NY 10012
Phone: (212) 998-2596

Fales Library and Special Collections

Collection processed by David Hobbs, 2014.

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on May 19, 2017

Biographical Note

Edward G. Leffingwell (1941-2015) was an art critic and curator. He received his master’s degree in art history from the University of Cincinnati, with a focus on 19th-Century American portraiture, and then moved to Los Angeles, where he wrote for the Los Angeles Free Press and collaborated with the Abstract Expressionist sculptor John Chamberlain. In the 1980s he was the Director of Programming at New York’s Institute for Art and Urban Resources (now MoMA P.S. 1) and then the Director of Visual Art for the City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department, before serving as Los Angeles’s corresponding editor for  Art in America.

Shortly after leaving the Cultural Affairs Department, Leffingwell began research on the experimental filmmaker and performance artist Jack Smith (1931-1989), for what would eventually become Smith’s first career retrospective. “Jack Smith: Flaming Creature” opened at P.S. 1 in October 1997 and ran until March 1998, prompting a feature in Artforum and favorable mention elsewhere. Reviewing the exhibition for  The New York Times, Holland Cotter wrote that it was “not only an exhaustive archival tour of Smith's career but also a model monographic approach to an artist much of whose primary work was in the ephemeral medium of performance.” In conjunction with the exhibition, Leffingwell oversaw an experimental biography that also served as an exhibition guide,  Flaming Creature: Jack Smith, His Amazing Life and Times (from Serpent's Tail Books) and edited a collection of Smith’s writings,  Wait for Me at the Bottom of the Pool, (from Serpent’s Tail's New York-based imprint, High Risk).

Following the Jack Smith exhibition, Leffingwell went to Sao Paolo to cover the emerging art scene for Art in America, and remained the magazine's corresponding editor from Brazil until 2012. Over the course of his career, Leffingwell wrote fourteen books and exhibition guides, as well as dozens of articles about 19th and 20th-Century art, with a strong focus on conceptual works.

Venant, Elizabeth. “New Muni Director a Man With a Mission.”  Los Angeles Times, December 8, 1988.
Muchnic, Suzanne. "Shake-Up at Municipal Art Gallery."  Los Angeles Times, July 8, 1992.
Cotter, Holland. “P.S. 1 Review/Art; All Over the Lot (The Back Lot, Too).”  The New York Times, October 31, 1997.
 Flaming Creature: Jack Smith, His Amazing Life and Times. editor Edward Leffingwell. London: Serpent's Tail Books, 1997.
Smith, Jack.  Wait for Me at the Bottom of the Pool. editor Edward Leffingwell. New York: High Risk, 1997.
 Art in America (1995-2012)