feast and famine of pure reason

At age twenty-two in 1937, the Museum of Modern Art purchased “Feast of Pure Reason” , and Jack Levine became known as the school of Boston Expressionism. It seems hardly justified that his work would fall almost totally out of favor with the advent of Jackson Pollock and abstract expressionism. However, he was unique; perhaps the only American artist who never stopped painting as a Social Realist, even when it went out of vogue in the 1950s and 1960s. “I am primarily concerned with the condition of man,” he said in 1952. “The satirical direction I have chosen is an indication of my disappointment in man, which is the opposite of saying that I have high expectations for the human race.”

Jack Levine, Welcome Home 1946. : It shows an armchair general being honored at an expensive restaurant, a wad of food in one cheek. On his right sits a bored socialite. Two decrepit businessmen in tuxedos make up the rest of the party. The central figure, Mr. Levine said, was "the big slob who is vice president of the Second National Bank and the president of the Chamber of Commerce, only now he's been in the Army." When "Welcome Home" was included in an exhibition of American culture in Moscow in 1959, the chairman of the House Committee on Un-American Activities mounted a campaign to have it removed. President Dwight D. Eisenhower said, "It looks more like a lampoon than art, as far as I am concerned," but refused to intervene. The uproar made Mr. Levine a star. He later told an interviewer, "You get denounced by the president of the United States, you've hit the top." read more: http://bloggy.com/

“Art News went so far as to dub him the “dazzling newcomer.” In the years following the war, however, the art establishment’s consensus on Levine’s work went through a dramatic reversal. Just how complete was this turnaround is plainly visible in a review, also in Art News from 1955, where Levine’s painting was described as “unlikable … tired, thin and lacking in wit.” (Raverty)…

Girls from Fleugel Street I have schemes that begin to correspond to reality, with paper and pencil or something like that. I’m doodling people, like a cartoonist. So, I invent nudes. I improvise. And I do ‘em because I’m an old man. It spices up my life a bit and I don’t have to be social about it either. Levine tells stories too, but he succeeds in making monuments of them. At his worst he can be sentimental, cruel or fulsomely romantic. But at his best, because he is willing to take these chances, he restores to modern art the grand manner: purposeful content that created its own forms. –Rodman’s, The Eye of Man.--- read more: http://jacklevine.org/CHRON.htm

Michael McNay: Although he claimed his work was more closely related to El Greco than to any 20th-century painter, his most coruscating works were very close to the work of the bitter German satirist George Grosz. Levine did take the trouble to learn the abandoned techniques of Renaissance painters, and after personal crises, one following the death of his father, the other the death of Ruth, he deployed his technical knowledge in exploring his roots, with a sequence of deeply felt portraits of Jewish seers and of episodes from the Bible. One, of Cain and Abel, entered the Vatican collection in 1973 and, it was reported, received the personal approval of Pope Paul VI. He developed magisterial skill as a graphic artist, again in the older media of etching, aquatint and lithography…. Read More: http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2010/nov/16/jack-levine-obituary

ADDENDUM:

"The Duke and Duchess of Windsor bow to Hitler in 1937 The Duke and Duchess of Windsor are presented as a pair of expressionless mummies who must be rolled about on wheels. Curtsying are a pair of awe struck American ladies. –Frank Getlein, 1958." read more: http://jacklevine.org/CHRON.htm

Read More: http://www.davidsutherland.com/films_levine_reviews.html

http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=4575132

Seth Lipsky: Ms. Cembalest interviewed Levine for the Forward, in which she quoted the curator of the Hirschhorn in Washington, Judith Zilczer, as putting Levine in the tradition of Hogarth and Rowlands. “I’m not a child of Cezanne,” she quoted the painter himself as saying. “I’m a child of Daumier. I have a right to be. It’s a free country.” And she quoted another great painter named Levine — David — as noting not only what an extraordinary draftsman Jack Levine but adding: “If I could think of a painter who had as many ways of using paint I’d go back to Titian.” read more: http://www.nysun.com/arts/jack-levine-redoubtable-american-realist-is-dead/87133/

---Tallmer:Better take that with a grain of salt. Except that Levine also talks of the abstract expressionists seeing "the Burning Bush in the bottom of their glasses in the Cedar Tavern." Of Jackson Pollock: "It's like Robert Frost said of free verse -- it's like playing tennis without a net. And this, finally: "Let the avant-garde go hang. As far as I'm concerned, I want to remain the mean little man I

ys was." Not so, says Sutherland, who spent almost two years, off and on, with Levine -- in the artist's workplace and elsewhere in New York, and in the museums and old haunts back in Boston. The meanness, says Sutherland, is overrated. "He's a man of sensitivity and muscle ... sort of like an old Woody Allen." read more: http://mwcapacity.wordpress.com/2010/12/03/jack-levine-rip/

Unlike other social realists, he combined a style that seemed drawn from diverse influences. There is the Marc Chagall inflections of an Eastern European jewish mysticism; the crunch of a Picasso with regard to his representation of the “gaze” and his ability to skirt the vulgarities of objectification. In another sense, he is the father of, or early originator of American graphic illustration in the vein of a Harvey Kurtzman or Robert Crumb as there is a comic, subversive feel to his work that makes it quite distinct from a Hart Benton. As an artistic political narrative, Levine could coax out a delineation of sensory experience; touch the imperceptible within the politics of the sensible. Politics as defined as the the disruption of the aesthetic and Levine would repatriate this aesthetic within perhaps a limited range of contexts, but nonetheless worked as all great artists within the construct that something must be perceived that cannot be perceived. It was a bit of a bait and switch with the satire which was of secondary importance.

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