Les Levine

Fischbach Gallery

A rather chilly exhibition, authored by a man named Les Levine, comprised in part of what looked like frigidaires swaddled in glistening vinyl, opened at the Fischbach Gallery. A Canadian artist hitherto unshown in these parts, Levine apparently feels so at home here that he is immediately kindled by the sensuous aspect of something called Eastman’s Uvex Plastic sheet. According to the flyer accompanying the show, “The sculptures are vacuum-formed from clear plastic sheet, then back sprayed with a silver metallic paint to create the glossy, silvery appearance.” Additionally, constructed armatures resembling refrigerators, their elements slightly differentiated in a six unit progression, have acted as the “originals” for a substance that mysteriously molds and transcribes them, yet remains the actual facade of the work. The same goes for a row of chair apparitions, as well as, in much smaller-scaled form, his innumerable polyexpandable styrene “disposables” (e.g. reverse fossils of pliers, bottles, etc.).

Not since Hybrid of last season has there been such a concerted chivvying after the mass reproduced image as motif for a work of art. Instead of the market research plebiscite of the earlier enterprise, however, Levine embraces certain technological ideas, like throwaways and synthetic packaging, as inherently expressive And rather than the boundness with which Laing and Phillips asserted their own stylistic predispositions in the teeth of composite “mass” preferences in terms of materials and shapes, Levine discovers almost a secretive inner life in concealed or vicariously present artifact. Here, his show would resemble Christo’s elaborately veiled mock-up store fronts, were it not for two quite indigenous factors. The first is that these works, far more particular in reference than Christo’s, advertise that there is nothing behind the contours that have jutted out by enormous pressure from behind. The second is that spatially they have great surface tension that seems to register the very weight and density of the room’s atmosphere, or rather, seems to inhale it magnetically, in opposition to the projections which the works themselves are. A plexiglass tunnel included in the show brought home this unusual point with some force. One walked through this transparent uterine space obsessed by the uncanny feeling that its side walls were quite accessible, and yet being able to demonstrate that they were tantalizingly out of reach. The spectator expedites certain haptic extensions, despite himself. In the end, I like these perplexing eversions far more than the technological commentary which is Levine’s central subject.

––Max Kozloff