David X. Levine

by devinking

Spent Thursday evening at Art Chicago and besides seeing:
1. A red ghost with a penis (my companions and I–“can a ghost get hard?”–did not get close enough to see if the answer was in the title, humorously–also, was triple dared to go ask the gallery owner, politely declined amidst uproar about refusal to follow up after being triple dared)
2. Unfortunate jello wrestling
3. Oakland sweat-stained undershirt flag (“It’s stopped smelling,” the gallery owner said, “It has blood and vomit on it”)
4. Really nice text pieces printed on silver gelatin–unfortunate text though, something about middle age crisis?
5. And this really awesome folk art gallery from New Orleans that was beautifully out of place with Louisiana and Texas themed license plates.

But! was amazingly moved by David X. Levine’s colored pencil drawings. Apparently, homeboy is synesthetic of, I would assume, the sound to color variety. I’ve been looking around online for a picture of the drawing that drew me in–patterned, sharp red diamonds on a black background with a newsprint picture of a young James Brown in the corner, but I’ll stick with this Brian Wilson ode, that’s similar:

It’s maybe a little too eye-winking–reminiscent of a junior high boy’s notebook–but these pieces point to Levine’s more abstract spaces:

From what the gallery owner told me, Levine draws on the wall while listening to music, allowing his synesthesia to control the patterning. The thumb tack holes are visible, and he seems to listen to songs over and over, as certain shapes and patterns repeat themselves (unless, if you’ll allow an Adorno-ian raise of the eyebrow–all pop music is the SAME). It’s lighthearted and, except when he’s quoting song lyrics or performers–pretty self contained.

It was interesting, then, seeing this stuff and having such a response to it, and then being nonplussed by other exhibits involving music:
1. The aforementioned Oakland gallery had some punk t-shirts and zines
2. Touch painting get noise music
3. An Australian dude put some potatoes on some keyboards

Punk nihilism doesn’t resonate as strongly when it places itself within institutional contexts. A pile of t-shirts with the word fuck on them are trying to be sold next to silkscreens of Chinese girls in red dresses. By reaching towards a pre-punk version of pop music and focusing, through his measured colors and patterns, our eyes on this older music’s order and form, Levine suggests a place for the Wilson and Brown’s teenage exhibition within an art/craft just as much as an art/attitude context. The closest Levine comes to distortion (that I saw) was the Kinks which, as you can see, is, well, just look:

This isn’t to say that the punk spirit shouldn’t be attempted within the gallery-my buddy Stephen Lapthisophon connects to it in his work pretty consistently:

Just that, to converse with punk only on the level of reaction or witty emptiness creates a darker version of the art fair’s superficiality–the original point losing power outside of the basement.