Author: Nuit Banai

10.22.09-12.05.09 Steven Zevitas Gallery

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.


Author: Cate McQuaid

November 17, 2009

“Brian Wilson Loves You’’ is the charged title that David X. Levine gives to his exhibit at Steven Zevitas Gallery. Wilson, whose sunny tunes and falsetto harmonies led to the Beach Boys’ dazzling success in the 1960s, has also famously struggled with mental health issues and addiction. Levine’s smart and provocative abstract drawings mix a winking cheerfulness with fragility and a hint of threat.

Levine has synesthesia; he listens to music and sees colors. He uses simple forms and saturated tones to capture the emotional freight of what he hears. In this show, he jumps to a large scale - an impressive feat for a colored-pencil artist. “Janis Joplin’’ is more than 6 feet tall and 4 feet across, with a soft yellow circle the shape of a slightly deflated gym ball hovering against a brilliant blue ground, like the sun on downers.

Most of the drawings feature meticulously rendered patterns, a new twist for Levine that evokes rhythm. “I Will Take You to the Heights of Carol Mountain,’’ a smaller piece, sports a repeating black triangle with bulbous sides half encircled with a rainbow. Wilson reportedly had a crush on Carol Mountain in high school. Near the bottom of the drawing, Levine collages a photo of him. The pattern, with its black center and rainbow ring, takes on the throbbing energy of obsession and unrequited love.

Levine’s crisp patterns and sharp tones recall Matisse. “Gold Brian,’’ another Wilson portrait ringed with yellow circles and a red band in a sea of blue, refers to Andy Warhol’s “Gold Marilyn.’’ “I’m Still in Love with Emily Kane’’ takes its title from an Art Brut song about another old high school love, and it echoes the bed frame and yellow tones in Van Gogh’s painting of his bedroom in Arles. Levine’s works engage with the brightness of a Beach Boys song, but they also ache with vulnerability.


November 1, 2002

DAVID X. LEVINE, ''Teenage Symphonies to God,'' Cynthia Broan, 423 West 14th Street, (212) 633-6525. If a Tantric master were reborn as an American student of rock 'n' roll, he might make works like Mr. Levine's paintings on paper. The best are pulsating concentric rings of colored circles, like strings of beads, with hand-written words referring to the Velvet Underground, the Beach Boys and other classic groups. Slightly dirtied and roughed up, they look antique, as though they have been exhumed from some forgotten monastery (Johnson).