Comedy is a big part of Cary Leibowitz’s art. (Courtesy Cary Leibowitz /Invisible-Exports)

Cary Leibowitz’s pink insecurities in full view at CJM

In a window front on San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Lane, next to the Contemporary Jewish Museum’s big blue cube, there’s an enticing glimpse into the exhibition inside: It’s a pink wall, decorated with a horizontal line of 14 square, 16-inch, pink panels, each with a hand-lettered message. Two in the center read: “Do These Pants Make Me Look Jewish?” and six on each side say: “Stop Copying Me.”

It’s a fun introduction to “Cary Leibowitz: Museum Show,” the first comprehensive career survey and solo museum exhibit of work by the 53-year-old pop artist from New York, also known, since the 1990s, as “Candyass.”

Baby blue and Pepto Bismol-pink walls provide the backdrop for the show, which is filled with cartoon-lettered paintings and objects with insights worthy of standup comedy acts and psychotherapy sessions: “I Love My Crappy Job/I Hate My Crappy Job,” “Please Don’t Tell Anyone You Saw Me,” “Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Mediocre,” “I’m a Jew How ‘Bout U?!!,” “Faggy Faggy Boom Boom.”

The show, which includes more than 350 works from 1987 to the present, is composed of paintings, fabric pieces, installations, ceramics (with felt tip lettering), photography and ephemera; most items boast text with an appealingly childlike scrawl.

At the center is an eye-catching installation called “Gain! Wait! Now!” It’s a pyramid of sorts made of many aluminum garbage cans that all have the same picture: chunky Leibowitz, wearing a suit, at his 1976 bar mitzvah.

One particularly fun wall piece, showcasing Leibowitz’s pop culture passion, is a circle of knit caps that say “Fran Drescher Fan Club.” Another less overtly self-deprecating painting says, “Modern Art Sucks …. You’re Fat.”

In catalog notes, curators say Leibowitz’s “comic, text-based works with an emphatically gay and often Jewish perspective address issues of identity, kitsch, modernist critique and queer politics.” His gallery calls the work “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.”

Visitors also can take home a piece of the action: $49 Fran Drescher caps, $29 mugs that say, “I Brake for Pastrami Sandwiches” and $250 signed Official Candyass “Sissy” foam footballs are available in the gift shop.


Cary Leibowitz: Museum Show
Where: Contemporary Jewish Museum, 736 Mission St., S.F.
When: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, except closed Wednesdays and to 8 p.m. Thursdays; closes June 25
Admission: $12 to $14
Contact: (415) 655-7800,
CandyassCary Leibowitz: Museum ShowContemporary Jewish MuseumFran DrescherMuseums and Galleriespop artVisual Arts

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at

Just Posted

The City requires the recycling or reuse of debris material removed from a construction project site. <ins>(Emma Chiang/Special to S.F. Examiner)</ins>
Permits proposed for haulers of construction debris to achieve zero-waste

San Francisco plans to tighten regulations on the disposal of construction and… Continue reading

(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/TNS)
Newsom says California will review FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccines before releasing to public

By Taryn Luna Los Angeles Times California will review the safety of… Continue reading

Rachael Tanner, left, testifies virtually before the Board of Supervisors Rules Committee Monday, October 19, 2020. (SFGOV courtesy art)
Rachael Tanner set to become SF’s next Planning Commissioner

Rachael Tanner is expected to serve as the newest member of the… Continue reading

People exercise along the closed Great Highway on Friday, Oct. 2, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Could the Great Highway become a great city park?

Permanent closure would require extensive public outreach, safety and traffic management plans

Flames and smoke overtake a tree as the LNU Lightning Complex fire spreads in Fairfield, California on August 19, 2020. (JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)
Many wildfires near full containment, but officials fear continuing hot weather

By Molly Burke The Sacramento Bee Thousands of firefighters continue to battle… Continue reading

Most Read