New York

Leon Kossoff, Demolition of YMCA Building No. 2, 1970, charcoal on paper, 23 1⁄4 × 33 1⁄8".

Leon Kossoff

Timothy Taylor NY

Leon Kossoff’s London—where he was born in 1926 and still lives—is depressing, unwholesome, grim; indeed, a kind of hell. Cimmerian charcoal drawings, such as City Rooftops, 1957, and Railway Bridge Mornington Crescent, 1952, made the place feel as though it was suffocating under toxic ash. More pointedly, it was a metropolis haunted by death, as Demolition of YMCA Building No. 2, 1970, suggested. The work reminded one of the buildings destroyed by German bombers in World War II during the blitz, while King’s Cross Building Site Early Days, 2003, made one think of the city’s hesitant renewal after the lethal terrorist attack there. Even the titular structure of Christ Church, 1992, was a barren, isolated, skeletal construction of black—no longer a home of prayer but a site of despair, an empty shell haunted by the ghosts of imperial England. 

Kossoff’s drawings are uncanny: One can read

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