Leonard Kaplan is a long time Laguna Beach resident. In 1945 he and his wife, Nan were faced with the decision of using their only savings to buy two winter coats and endure another East coast winter or buy two bus ticket to California. Kaplan had read that Laguna Beach was an art colony and so the two decided to try their luck in out west.
Born and raised in New York, Kaplan’s skill as a visual artist was discovered at an early age when he was given a scholarship to study at the Art Student’s League. While in school Kaplan became a favorite student of the well-known artists Reginald Marsh and William Palmer. Under their instruction, Kaplan explored the drawing style and sensibilities of the Renaissance masters, while also taking an interest in the revolutionary Surrealist artists of the day.
When arriving in Laguna Beach, Kaplan opened a studio and an antique shop, which allowed him to indulge his curiosity in the past. Kaplan saw, the artist as a projection of the past, not a negation, of it. Through his junque business Kaplan was given the opportunity to explore all areas of the history and taking pleasure in his unusual merchandise.
Kaplan is known as an artist, who has explored various media ranging from whalebone carving to photomontage. While working in a traditional style, he uses a variety of unorthodox materials that help to give his work a moody edge. Kaplan describes himself as a, conservative surrealist, venturing to create fantastical and dream-like themes within his work. He sees fantasy as an important aspect in this day and age, and views life as incapable of existing without fantasy.
Kaplan’s montages and paintings have been described as complex, and eclectic with a mixture of, the man, collector, and artist, all within them. His work often appears mysterious and ominous to the initial viewer, however with closer inspection the viewer finds the existence of an alternate world, which can easily be seen as a flip side of reality. Following the path of the Surrealists, Kaplan ventures to penetrate and visualize the unconscience through the fluid yet convoluted mazes in his images.
Using antique prints and old magazines, Kaplan cautiously cuts out images from the past to reconfigure them and resurrect them into new creations. Meticulously, applying paint, charcoal and conte crayon Kaplan generates a new world out of the old. His images engage the viewer to lose oneself in his work, see this as an essential part of the artistic process. Giving the viewer a multifaceted and complexly assembled universe allows Kaplan the therapeutic means of supporting his need for independence and his pursuit to create art in new and different ways.
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