David Levinthal: Recent Acquisitions

Exhibition Website

Feb 12 2017 - Oct 8 2017

NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale will present an exhibition of 25 pivotal photographs by artist David Levinthal (b. 1949), whose work is a commentary on American popular culture, icons and ideologies. The photographs were part of a recent gift to NSU Art Museum by New York collector and film producer Donald Rosenfeld, and is included in the Modern Mythologies exhibition series that explores the power of myths in contemporary times.

As a graduate student at Yale in 1972, Levinthal began constructing miniature environments with toy figures, which he then photographed using dramatic lighting and angles to create highly charged dramatic scenes. Levinthal’s work became an important influence on Pictures Generation artists such as Cindy Sherman, Laurie Simmons and Richard Prince, who came onto the art scene in the late 1970s and whose work incorporated popular imagery and mass media. “These seminal works by David Levinthal augment the museum’s contemporary art collection with its focus on Pictures Generation artists to the present,” states Bonnie Clearwater.

The exhibition will include Levinthal’s series of photographs of toy cowboys and soldiers created at Yale, on view for the first time since his thesis exhibition, along with photographs from his well-known Modern Romance series in which he used isolated tiny doll figurines to create melodramatic mises-en-scene reminiscent of Edward Hopper paintings and film noir.

Initially interested in toys merely as objects, Levinthal became aware of the emotions that his constructions evoked in viewers. As Levinthal stated, he discovered that “the narrow focus that came from photographing objects less than an inch tall gave the toys more life and a sense of realism that was not inherent in them. Setting up the toy figures is just the beginning. The set itself is just the background. It is a scene. And it is within and from that scene that the images themselves are found.”

His work explores the ambiguities between illusion and fact as well as the role photography has traditionally played as an objective, documentary medium.

Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website 

  • Photography
  • American
  • Contemporary
  • David Levinthal

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