David X. Levine: Recent Paintings

C. Sean Horton
04/01/2004

If art is indeed the transmission of a feeling the artist has experienced, then the work of David X. Levine is the quintessence of what art should be.  His highly idiosyncratic pencil-on-paper drawings converse with the viewer, revealing accounts of euphoric meditations on music and art making.
Like any good conversation, Levine’s transmissions build slowly until a climax is reached and new meaning is realized.  The careful eye is tempted to follow each poetic inscription and colored contour until the zenith is finally apprehended.  His small abstractions are not the flash-in-the-pan heroics of the ancestors of American painting but rather a sort of pull-up-a-chair-and-let’s-talk-about-life gesture of optimism.  With even the smallest amount of sincere interest, the patient viewer will discover a munificent world of glee embedded within his droopy, hang-low, udderlike forms.  In this regard, Levine’s drawings appear to be somewhat generous, ready and willing to offer the same sort of prolonged pleasure as that which went into their making.
    There is a brand of humility to each drawing that is not too distant from the moral fiber of certain types of folk art (perhaps a better correlation would be something like an aged carnival or drive-in sign whose reds have become pinks).  This humility is due in large part to the restraint exhibited by Levine: his commitment to drawing as a viable and important medium of expression, the sincerity of his rigorous interest in abstraction, and his willingness to reveal the guts of that process via pencil smudges, tattered edges, and the seemingly proud tack holes.  Some would use the word self-taught or its chic new handmaiden faux-naïve, but such characterizations often seem to be driven either by commerce or high-nosed art types.  In Levine’s case, let’s just call him what he is: a damn fine artist.