Critic's Pick: David X. Levine

Nuit Banai

Despite the fact that both his relationship to his idols and their rapport with him is completely projected, David X. Levine’s exhibition of drawings, “Brian Wilson Loves You,” is a confession of the musical devotee’s intense closeness to his subjects. In fact, while the viewer of Levine’s homage to musicians like Chuck Berry, Janis Joplin, and Amy Winehouse may imagine that the “You” in the title is directed at them, it seems more likely that it is the artist’s wishful desire for a reciprocal affinity with the performers.

Yet much like that of Andy Warhol, the ultimate fan, Levine’s work communicates more broadly because of the artist’s ability to transform his emotive effusion into an aesthetic labor of love. Though most of the works contain collage elements, they are grafted onto variously sized sheets of paper colored entirely with pencil. The extreme manual labor and repetitive gestures necessary to achieve each expanse’s uniform and almost waxy sheen are temporal testaments to Levine’s devotion.

However, Levine is interested not just in exploring the visual fabrication of intimacy with a gamut of public figures, some lesser known than others (Beach Boy sensation Brian Wilson and Carol Mountain––an old classmate and love interest of Wilson’s––receive equal treatment), but also in the possibility of turning abstraction into a similarly cherished object of desire. In some of the best works, such as James Brown, 2008, and Super Black . . ., 2009, Levine presents an overlay of recurring patterns (reminiscent of Russian Constructivist textiles), zones of pure color, and collages framed within monochromatic planes. In these, the artist lavishes the same attention on the language of abstraction as he does on his heroes, suggesting that they are sites for both the creation of desire and the constitution of the self.