David Leggett makes paintings riffing on the realities of racism in America today. Sean Joseph Patrick Carney, fellow PNCA alum (and host of the excellent podcast Humor and the Abject), wrote about Leggett's work for Art in America, “Saccharine backgrounds and playfully astute renderings of pop-culture figures invite viewers to laugh." Indeed, much of Leggett's work hits with the force of a punchline but, as Carney goes on, "then, devastatingly, Leggett’s jokes reveal themselves as brutal confrontations of systemic racism in the United States.”
In It's not what you know it's what you can prove (2016), Leggett has depicted Chief Wiggums (fictional police chief from The Simpsons) with blood spatter on his police hat. It's about as dark as humor gets, highlighting the reality of police misconduct, corruption, and brutality pervading America today. Jokes using controversial subject matter are a matter of putting the butt of the joke in the right place and in this case, the police are the butt.
In Legalize it. I don't want meatloaf, mom. (2018) a freckled blue-eyed boy wearing a Wonder Bread shirt mopes through a field of green dotted with pot leaves. Inside a speech bubble is written "jah loves you" and, superimposed in felt lettering at the bottom, is "White Bread Jones." It reads as a sardonic commentary on the cultural and legal transformation of marijuana in this country from a purportedly dangerous, illegal drug for which black people have been disproportionately incarcerated, into a safe and commercially viable product in which rich white guys invest and whiny white boys promulgate.
Western Beauty standards is a hilarious jab at the self-serious and white-male dominated world of abstract painting. In it, a cluster of simple, flat geometric shapes float in a field of goldenrod brushstrokes atop a background of lemon yellow. Two floating heads, both black men, are looking at the field of shapes. One, a cartoon, is smiling to reveal a gap tooth, while the other head, a photo, raises his brows in suspicion at the colorful cluster. It's a boldly self-effacing painting which points to its own participation in a history it critiques.