Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name



Fine Arts

Committee Chair

Begley, John P.

Author's Keywords

Geometric abstraction; Op-art; Kinetic art; Pillet; Edgard; Zimmerman; Leo; Louisville artist


Zimmerman; Leo W.; 1924–2008; Art; Abstract--Kentucky--Louisville; Kinetic art--Kentucky--Louisville; Mural painting and decoration; American--Kentucky--Louisville


Leo Zimmerman is a contradiction: A man who was both highly collaborative and deeply influential in the Louisville art scene but was a misanthrope who became increasingly reclusive over the years. He produced prolifically yet chose to never sell work, with a few rare exceptions. Though he believed his work to be of great value he repeatedly and adamantly refused proposals to exhibit. This is the nature of the inventor, pushing ever forwards toward new undiscovered ground. Zimmerman's style is a reflection not only of the artistic movements taking place in Europe and the U.S. after World War II but also evidence of his orientation towards process, discovery and innovation. The breadth of his style ranges from his earliest work created with a more traditional, formalist approach to painting in a nonobjective abstract style, forsaking subject matter later on in favor of an exploration of color and shape and then finally to the kinetic and computer generated work of his later years, which investigated movement and perspective. Zimmerman fused concepts of mechanics, engineering and art, producing a variety of work that blurred the lines dividing fine and applied arts, such as the sarcopha-couch, Silicoil brush cleaning system and fiberglass reproduction of the Ford Chimera. This research and exhibition of Zimmerman's work serves several purposes. First, it serves as an impetus to preserve Leo Zimmerman's artistic legacy through revisiting his work and orienting him within an art historical context. Second, the exhibition and research is an opportunity to explore the state of and future of arts in Louisville, Kentucky. Zimmerman felt strongly and worked with tenacity to promote a fertile ground for cultural endeavors in his hometown. Displaying Zimmerman's work raises questions about the future of arts in Louisville and will invite those working within the artistic community, past, present and future, to engage in the conversation. Finally, the exhibition sought to provoke theoretical questions about the parameters of art and suggest potential overlap between artistic creativity and applied/utilitarian creativity (technological, architectural, community planning, mechanical etc.).