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Cary Leibowitz: Museum Show

The first comprehensive career survey and solo museum exhibition of Leibowitz’s work
January 26–June 25, 2017

(San Francisco, CA, November 3, 2016) Paintings that say, “Here I am please don’t be mean” and “I just got a pair of Gucci for Bergdorfs loafers for 50% off and I really do feel better.” A white porcelain fish-shaped dish that reads, “Fucked up homo bar-mitzvah gay boy worries too much about what his mother will wear.” Knit caps with “Fran Drescher Fan Club” emblazoned on the front and foam footballs that read, “Candyass Sissy.”

New York–based contemporary artist Cary Leibowitz (b. 1963) creates comic, text-based works with an emphatically gay and often Jewish perspective that address issues of identity, kitsch, modernist critique, and queer politics. Since the early 1990s, when he became widely known under the moniker “Candyass,” Leibowitz has, as his gallery INVISIBLE-EXPORTS states, “created unmistakable work that is the product of a riveting and consistent practice—driven by anxieties, neuroses, and premonitions of difference—that transform self-doubt and social skepticism into something much larger than niche art-world critique: a heartrending and intimate meditation on our inescapable secret doubleness.”

With a preference for lowbrow aesthetics and threadbare materials, Leibowitz creates work with a bold, cartoon-like quality: pop colors are combined with a childish scrawl, proclaiming abundant displays of insecurity and exposing simplistic raw truths about contemporary society.

The exhibition, the first career survey and solo museum show of Leibowitz’s work to date, will feature nearly 350 original artworks from 1987 to the present: paintings, fabric works, multiples, installations, documentation, photography, and ephemera.

“This retrospective is the first of many original monographic shows now in development at The Contemporary Jewish Museum,” says Lori Starr, Executive Director, The CJM. “We are so excited to present and then travel this first museum survey of Leibowitz’s work, spotlighting a contemporary artist distinguished by his no-holds-barred examination of art, culture, sexuality, and being Jewish in the twenty-first century.”

In both his cheeky multiples (inexpensively mass-produced buttons, mugs, and more) and his irregular-format paintings, Leibowitz mixes his obsession with popular culture, fine art, and Jewishness with elements of therapy and self-loathing, interrogation and self-interrogation, institutional critique, social commentary, and stand-up comedy routine. His work manages to seamlessly blend comedy and neurosis in such a way that questions about appearance and identity become a running commentary on the self/other.

In addition to original works, the exhibition will also include many of the multiples created specifically for individual exhibitions that carry on his obsession with popular culture, identity, and fine art, including team pennant flags for “Homo State” that say, “Go Fags!”; a Marcia Tucker seat cushion; a Cindy Sheehan megaphone; and “J’Adore Gertrude Stein” buttons. One installation features a display of his editioned work, Gain! Wait! Now!, 2001, an aluminum garbage can that features an image of Leibowitz as a chubby adolescent at his bar mitzvah in 1976.

Cary Leibowitz: Museum Show is organized by The Contemporary Jewish Museum (The CJM) and is curated by CJM Associate Curator Anastasia James. The exhibition is accompanied by a 224-page fully-illustrated hardcover catalog with contributions by James and Leibowitz, as well as Rhonda Lieberman, Hilton Als, Simon Lince, Fran Drescher, David Bonetti, and Glen Helfand.

Cary Leibowitz Biography

Cary Leibowitz (b. 1963, New York) also known as “Candyass,” is an American artist whose work has shown in museums and institutions across the globe including The ICA Boston; The Walker Arts Center, Minneapolis; the Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt; The Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Ridgefield, CT; the Guggenheim Museum, New York; The Whitney Museum, New York; The Jewish Museum, New York; MoMA PS1, New York; The Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis; The Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, OH; The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, PA; Badischer Kunstverein, Karlsruhe, Germany; White Columns, New York; Philadelphia Museum of Jewish Art, Philadelphia, PA; Art Metropole, Toronto; Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen, Düsseldorf; Bonner Kunstverein, Bonn, Germany; Cabinet Gallery, London; The Kitchen NY; Galleri Nicolai Wallner, Copenhagen; Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago; Galerie Claudio Botello, Turin, Italy; List Visual Arts Center, MIT, Cambridge, MA. Leibowitz’s work has been included in the landmark exhibitions Too Jewish? Challenging Traditional Identities at the Jewish Museum in New York; In a Different Light at the University Art Museum, University of California Berkeley; and Bad Girls, New Museum, New York. His work has been reviewed in The New Yorker, Artforum, The New York Times, Frieze Magazine, and Art in America, among others. Leibowitz is represented by INVISIBLE-EXPORTS.

Organization and Funding

Cary Leibowitz: Museum Show is organized by The Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco.

Lead sponsorship is provided by Gaia Fund. Major sponsorship is provided by Dorothy R. Saxe and Wendy and Richard Yanowitch. Supporting sponsorship is provided Pacific Heights Plastic Surgery. Additional support is provided by David Agger; Alvin Baum and Robert Holgate; and Michael T. Case and Mark G. Reisbaum.

The Contemporary Jewish Museum’s exhibition program is supported by a grant from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

Related Programming


For the Public

Have a Poet for Lunch with Alvin Orloff

Friday, Feb 10 │12:30–1pm
Free with Museum admission

Writer and performance artist Alvin Orloff performs in conjunction with the exhibition. Orloff is the author of three madcap, queer novels, I Married an Earthling, Gutter Boys, and Why Aren't You Smiling? 


Have a Poet for Lunch with Jennifer Blowdryer  

Friday, Feb 24│12:30–1pm
Free with Museum admission

Poet and performance artist Jennifer Blowdryer performs in the gallery in partnership with Manic D Press. 

Jennifer Blowdryer is from an Eastern Seaboard mishmash of immigrants and travelers, by blood and temperament. She’s the author of a few counterculture novels and impressionistic guides to life, from Modern English: Trendy Slang Dictionary (Last Gasp, SF, 84) to most recently, Good Advice for Young Trendy People of All Ages (Manic D Press, SF) and Blowsy (Personality Press, NY). She received a fellowship and MFA from the Columbia University Writing Division, in fiction, and has spent the last five years working intensively with musicians in Blowdryer Punk Soul in SF, NYC, and Baltimore.  


Night at the Jewseum:  Sparkle!  
Thursday, March 9 │6:30-9pm 21+
Free with Museum admission.

Delve into the delightfully funny Leibowitz exhibition with this evening dedicated to camp, queerness, comedy, and a contemporary spin on the Purim Spiel. 


Have a Poet for Lunch with Marisa Crawford

Friday, Mar 24 │12:30­–1pm
Free with Museum admission

Poet Marisa Crawford reads and performs in conjunction with the exhibition. Crawford is the author of the poetry collections Reversible (2017) and The Haunted House (2010) from Switchback Books, as well as two chapbooks. She is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of the feminist literary/pop culture website Weird Sister.


The Art of AIDS Activism

Thursday, Apr 6 | 6:30–8pm
Free with Museum admission

In response to the AIDS epidemic, San Francisco artists melded outrage and political activism to create a unique style of politically charged art. Panelists include artist Rudy Lemcke (Queer Cultural Center), Dorian Katz (Center for Sex and Culture), and acclaimed HIV educator Ed Wolf who discuss the difference in East Coast and West Coast artistic response, and the stylistic influence on artist Cary Leibowitz. Discussion moderated by California College of the Arts Chair of Visual and Critical Studies, Tirza Latimer.


The CJM Contemporaries Present: Exodus Party

Saturday, April 15, 2017 | 7:30pm–12am
For individual ticket pricing or to sponsor the event contact or call 415.655.7824

Please join The CJM’s Contemporaries for the Exodus Party—a late night celebration of Passover and Cary Leibowitz: Museum Show. This special one night only party features world class DJs, specialty cocktails, drag performances, dancers, activities, and more! Exodus Party provides an opportunity to celebrate Jewish culture through a contemporary perspective. Proceeds from this event support The CJM’s year-round evening programs that celebrate the connection of Jewish culture with contemporary life.


Andrew Ramer on Pride Week’s Pink Triangle in Conjunction with Yom HaShoah

Friday, Apr 21, 2017 | 12:30–1pm
Free with Museum admission

During Pride week, a giant pink triangle is installed on Twin Peaks. Writer Andrew Ramer talks about how the pink triangle went from being a symbol of persecution to a symbol of gay pride. Presented in partnership with Congregation Sha’ar Zahav.


In A Different Light, Revisited
Thursday, May 11, 2017 | 6:30–8pm
$10 General (includes Museum admission)

The 1995 exhibition In a Different Light at University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) was the first to seek to identify queer aesthetics. Revisit this seminal exhibition (that included Cary Leibowitz) as our panelists examine the exhibition’s impact twenty years later. With curator and BAMPFA Director Larry Rinder, artist Scott Hewicker, and curator Margaret Tedesco. Moderated by Stanford University professor Richard Meyer.


San Francisco Poet’s Theater presents: Celebrity Hospital

Thursday, May 25, 2017 | 6:30–8:30pm
Free with Museum admission

Written by Kevin Killian and Karla Milosevich, Celebrity Hospital features a cast of Bay Area poets, painters, video and filmmakers, cartoonists, theorists, novelists, sculptors, and curators.

To protect the privacy of his clientele at Celebrity Hospital in LA, top surgeon Dr. Tim Baldwin admits only famous people. Even the doctors and nurses are (or were) celebrities of a sort. It's another typical day at Celebrity Hospital, until Dr. Baldwin and his staff are confronted by two grave ills, the eco-terrorists known as the Cult of the Black Feather, who demand universal facelifts for the poor and oppressed, and by a strange apparition, haunting the hallways and linen closets, that looks like a werewolf and seems to be after Hollywood's greatest and most ageless stars.


Have a Poet for Lunch with Ed Wolf

Friday, May 26, 2017 | 12:30–1pm
Free with Museum admission

HIV educator Ed Wolf reads in conjunction with the exhibition. has been working continuously in the HIV/AIDS epidemic since 1983. He has developed HIV-related curriculum and trainings for a large number of national and international organizations and institutions, and his stories and articles have appeared in a wide variety of publications.


Please Don’t Tell Anyone You Saw Me: Comedians on The Edge

Thursday, Jun 1, 2017 | 6:30–8pm
$10 General (includes Museum admission)

Like contemporary art, comedy disrupts our expectations of the status quo and engages with difficult topics, such as religion, race, sexuality, or politics—while making us laugh. The artists Cary Leibowitz and Roz Chast both use variants of traditional Jewish humor to disarm the viewer. Comedians Nato Green, Natasha Muse, Karinda Dobbins, and others perform and discuss edgy comedy.


Have a Poet for Lunch with Juliana Delgado Lopera

Friday, Jun 2, 2017 | 12:30–1pm
Free with Museum admission

Colombian writer, educator, and oral-historian Juliana Delgado Lopera performs in conjunction with the exhibition. The recipient of the 2014 Jackson Literary award, and a finalist of the Clark-Gross Novel award, Lopera is the author of ¡Cuéntamelo! an illustrated bilingual collection of oral histories by LGBT Latin@ immigrants. Her work has been published in Four Way Review, Eleven Eleven, Foglifter, The Bold Italic, Weird Sister, Black Girl Dangerous, and SF Weekly. She is the Executive Director of RADAR Productions, a queer literary non-profit in San Francisco.


Have a Poet for Lunch with Daphne Gottlieb

Friday, Jun 9, 2017 | 12:30–1pm
Free with Museum admission

Writer Daphne Gottlieb reads in conjunction with the exhibition. Gottlieb is the award-winning author of ten books including the new Pretty Much Dead, short stories on homelessness and mental illness. Previous works include Dear Dawn: Aileen Wuornos in her Own Words, letters from death row by the “first female serial killer.”


Have a Poet for Lunch with Sherilyn Connelly

Friday, Jun 16, 2017 | 12:30–1pm
Free with Museum admission

Writer Sherilyn Connelly reads in conjunction with the exhibition. Connelly is a San Francisco-based writer and librarian, and a film critic for the Village Voice and SF Weekly. Her first nonfiction book, Ponyville Confidential: The History and Culture of My Little Pony, 1981–2016, was recently published by McFarland & Company.


Have a Poet for Lunch with Charlie Jane Anders

Friday, Jun 23 | 12:30–1pm
Free with Museum admission

Writer Charlie Jane Anders reads in conjunction with the exhibition. Anders is the author of All the Birds in the Sky, the organizer of the Writers With Drinks literary series, and a founding editor of io9. Her fiction has appeared in Tin House, McSweeney's Internet Tendency, ZYZZYVA,, Asimov's Science Fiction, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Lightspeed, and more. Her story “Six Months, Three Days” won a Hugo Award, and her novel Choir Boy won a Lambda Literary Award.


For Teens

That’s So Gay! 
Sunday, Feb 26 | 3–5pm

Start in the gallery experiencing the work of Cary Leibowitz, a pioneering queer artist from New York and end in the studio conversing with local artists who explore sexuality and gender. Presented in partnership with Oasis For Girls. 


For Teachers

Censored! Teaching Queer History and Identity Through the Art of Cary Leibowitz
Thu, Feb 2 | 4:30-7:30 pm
FREE with RSVP to

Check out the text-based art of Cary Leibowitz, an artist who explores issues of identity as a gay Jewish man, then learn about ways art can be used as a tool for visibility and resistance. Co-led by Lyndsey Schlax, curriculum expert for the SFUSD LGBTQ Studies program.

About The Contemporary Jewish Museum

With the opening of its new building on June 8, 2008, The Contemporary Jewish Museum ushered in a new chapter in its twenty-plus year history of engaging audiences and artists in exploring contemporary perspectives on Jewish culture, history, art, and ideas. The facility, designed by internationally renowned architect Daniel Libeskind, is a lively center where people of all ages and backgrounds can gather to experience art, share diverse perspectives, and engage in hands-on activities. Inspired by the Hebrew phrase “L’Chaim” (To Life), the building is a physical embodiment of The CJM’s mission to bring together tradition and innovation in an exploration of the Jewish experience in the twenty-first century.

Major support for The Contemporary Jewish Museum’s exhibitions and Jewish Peoplehood Programs comes from the Koret Foundation. The Museum also thanks the Jim Joseph Foundation for its major support of innovative strategies for educating and engaging audiences in Jewish learning. Additional major support is provided by an Anonymous donor; Alyse and Nathan Mason Brill; Gaia Fund; the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation; Grants for the Arts/San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund; Walter and Elise Haas Fund; the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties; Maribelle and Stephen Leavitt; the Bernard Osher Jewish Philanthropies Foundation of the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund; Osterweis Capital Management; Dorothy R. Saxe; and Wendy and Richard Yanowitch.

For more information about The Contemporary Jewish Museum, visit The Museum’s website at

General Information

The Museum is open daily (except Wednesday) 11am–5pm and Thursday, 11am–8pm. Museum admission is $14 for adults, $12 for students and senior citizens with a valid ID, and $5 on Thursdays after 5pm. Youth 18 and under always get in free. For general information on The Contemporary Jewish Museum, the public may visit The Museum’s website at or call 415.655.7800. The Contemporary Jewish Museum is located at 736 Mission Street (between Third & Fourth streets), San Francisco.


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