Leslie Roberts

Basic Info

Name: Leslie Roberts
Country of Origin: AF


Leslie Roberts (born 1957, Goldsboro, NC) is a Brooklyn-based artist who maps language into geometric color structures. She has exhibited throughout the US for three decades, with recent solo shows at Brooklyn’s Minus Space. In 2020 she was included in SUM Artists: Visual Diagrams and Systems-Based Explorations at the Wellin Museum, Hamilton College, Clinton, NY. Her work has been shown at New York’s Pierogi, McKenzie Fine Art, Tiger Strikes Asteroid, Davidson, and PPOW galleries; at the Weatherspoon Museum, Greensboro, NC; and at the Brooklyn Museum, among other venues. An interview was included in New York Studio Conversations II, 21 Women Talk About Art by Stephanie Buhmann (Green Box, Berlin, 2018.) She has had residencies at Yaddo, Ragdale, and Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Other awards include Yale’s Ethel Childe Walker Prize for Art, Yale’s John Courtney Murray Fellowship for independent work abroad, and Faculty Development Grants from Pratt Institute. Roberts holds an MFA from Queens College, CUNY and a BA from Yale College. She also attended the New York Studio School and the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. She is a professor at Pratt Institute, where she teaches Foundation Light Color & Design.


Leslie Roberts translates ephemeral language into color abstraction, in works that are diagrams of their own making. Using self-devised rules, she maps handwritten words into algorithmic structures of ink, pencil, and acrylic gouache.

Roberts collects fragments from the flow of information through our lives and our screens. She sorts her notes into lists, and transcribes them in columns on slate-like gessoed panels. Each panel contains a list. The letters of each entry on that list (word, phrase, or sentence, as the case may be) are mapped along numbered and lettered X and Y axes, using a given rule and color for each entry. On some panels, the same text is diagrammed twice, using the same colors, but applying different rules. Varying systems involve lines, shapes, clusters of dots, or layers of wash, resulting in generative forms that can recall digital code, ancient glyphs, woven textiles, and musical scores.

Some paintings’ lists document a journey or place. Others are mismatched lexicons of contemporary vernacular: rosters of disparate instructions, acronyms, text messages, headlines, or other scraps of found language. The writing and notations are a resonant fine print, integral to the optical systems they produce.


Explore Artworks By Leslie Roberts

Your Photographs Must Be

Acrylic gouache, graphite, ink, colored pencil on gessoed panel , 2015 Handwritten text: list of US passport regulations: Excerpt: your photographs must be / two by two inches in size / identical / taken within the last six months / showing current appearance / color or black-and-white/ full face / front view / with a […]


Acrylic gouache, colored pencil, ink, graphite on gessoed panel Handwritten text: Sentences preceded by “why,” from news reports, email, and other sources. Transcript: Is this happening Did I get this Aren’t people angrier Do you want this job Can’t we sleep Am I writing you Do filmmakers love van Gogh Would a company buy back […]

True False

Acrylic gouache, ink, graphite on gessoed panel Handwritten text: list of oppositions Excerpt: True/false, anxious/serene, bizarre/ordinary, positive/uncertain, digital/analog, uptown/downtown, compliant/resistant, rough/gentle, systematic/arbitrary, orderly/disheveled, heavy/light, friend/foe, binary/non-binary . . .

Metro To Fulton

Acrylic gouache, graphite, ink, colored pencil on gessoed panel Handwritten text: Signs and ads read during a subway trip Excerpt: Lorimer St, Metropolitan Grand, plan ahead, I was scared silly, local, litter stops here, help point, service exit, apply now, emergency instructions, caution, this area has been baited with rodenticide, something funny is happening in […]

In Case Of

Acrylic gouache, graphite, ink, colored pencil on gessoed panel Handwritten text: Found words and phrases preceded by “in case of,” listed alphabetically. Transcript: accident, allergic reaction, avalanche, bad weather, bee sting, bankruptcy, bad news, choking, concussion, copyright infringement, divorce, death, damage or loss, doubt, emergency, Ebola, epileptic seizure, electric shock, forgotten password, food poisoning, fire, […]

How Things ARe

Acrylic gouache, colored pencil, ink, graphite on gessoed panel Handwritten text: text messages in response to “how are things?” Transcript: Could be worse It’s getting unnerving Anxious So far so good Home and glad of it Laying low Just peeling out of hazmat gear Having little luck getting clear info Can’t get used to this […]


Acrylic gouache, ink, graphite, colored pencil on gessoed panel Handwritten text: list of 4-letter acronyms and initialisms Transcript: ISBN, AWOL, IMHO, HTTP, ADHD, NASA, PTSD, SWAK, RSVP, FOMO, ROF,L USSR, SOTU, TLDR, IHOP, MYOB, ASAP, USDA, TGIF, AIDS, USPS, HTML, BMOC, AAUP, TTFN, LMAO, BYOB, FDIC. FLAG, BART, SIDS, ACLU, MAOI, RBGH, AARP, MILF, OMFG, […]


Acrylic gouache, colored pencil, ink, graphite on gessoed panel Handwritten text: list of announcements from email inbox. Excerpt: Call for proposals, storage system outage, train service interrupted, invitation to apply for membership, active shooter training, deadline next week . . .