It all came about because he slipped on the ice. Well, to be fair it came about because he wanted to be a doctor, but we’ll get to that. Jeffrey Leder was on one of his walks—“I’m a walker,” he says—along those slick New York City streets, when he hit a patch of ice and fell. Though undamaged, the fall sealed his desire for warmer climates, and after closing his New York gallery, Leder found himself exploring Greenville, South Carolina.
“It was love at first sight,” the longtime painter explains. After an initial encounter downtown, Leder walked (yes, walked) through the West End and into the Village of West Greenville, which happened to be celebrating First Friday.
“It confirmed this was the place for me,” Leder says.
By place, Mr. Leder means current place, as he’s experienced a myriad of places in his time. During his adolescence, Leder lived in Puerto Rico, where he was “introduced to color and flavor.” But his artistic enthusiasm held bloom until his third year at the University of Michigan. Realizing his medical studies required an elective, Leder enrolled in a watercolor course on Saturday mornings.
“I start to take the class, and I fall in love with art,” he says. “I could not get enough of it.”
Needless to say Jeffrey Leder never became a doctor. His newfound passion led him to Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, and then to San Juan, where at 22 years old he sold out his first one-person exhibition. By his mid-twenties, Leder was represented by the West Broadway Gallery in Soho, and the next few decades saw not only progress in paint, but also success in marketing, which exposed him to travels across Latin America and Europe.
“I’ve been very fortunate in my time,” Leder says. “Life is not beautifully fluid and peaceful, not necessarily. But this is the chance we have to do things. To affect the world in a particular way, a positive way hopefully.”
It’s an inspiring philosophy he doesn’t consciously put into his work, but perhaps finds its way there all the same. Label Leder a minimalist or reductivist—for him it’s mainly about form and color. He pulls a small notebook from his pocket, leafing through graph-lined pages, exposing hundreds of geometric drawings.
“I get into a particular groove, of angles . . . it’s like meditation for me,” he says. “I don’t pass any judgment while I’m doing it, I let it flow out. Later on, I’ll go and choose which ones I want to develop further.”
Color choice, too, is a subconscious act, and Leder admits they don’t always work. However, while reflecting on his paintings, it’s clear each color holds its weight; the dark and the light all exude purpose. The effect is sobering, but in a peaceful way.
“It’s my understanding from reading and studying and understanding life, that we have dissonance,” Leder explains. “But we each need to take that discipline and make as much harmony as we possibly can.”
You can find Jeffrey Leder’s work at Art & Light in Greenville. He has shown at ArtHelix in Brooklyn, NY, and will be featured in a group show at the Miller Gallery in Charleston in May. For more, visit jeffreylederart.com; @jeffreylederart.