New York

Daniel Levine

Julien Pretto

Daniel Levine reiterates images. Taking an arbitrary source such as a painting or print, he reproduces part of that image in black and white acrylic paint. But recognition of the original source is obviously not the desired goal, since each of his images is equally abstract; they resemble each other more than they resemble their sources. What is retained from the original is only a hinted movement, a darkened area, or a surface texture. The fact that the original sources are referred to neither in the works themselves nor in their titles underscores Levine’s interest in pursuing an arbitrariness of identity. Each source is transformed into a small black and white acrylic painting either on paper or brushed steel. Whether in the delicate paper version or the more austere metal one, each of these pieces has been vaporized of all specifics.

Such vaporization of reference has several effects. Levine’s critique of authorship is not framed with reference to the supposed dead-end street of historical progress, so the work does not suffer the sometimes stifling effect of past art. Neither is Levine constrained by the preassigned meaning that each original source may impose on him. By using reference as a common denominator between his work and the original, each is revealed as the twin of the other. By breaking with the reference to the original art, Levine forces the issue of originary meaning. Levine’s work suggests that the original images are equally arbitrary and irrelevant. They are not, by themselves, the harbingers of content, but mere structural shells to be filled with his reactions. The discarding of the original source as a legitimate reference is understandable, since such referencing to an esthetic null set has reached a point of copious redundancy. Levine’s work, still tentative, does not yet exert its own force in the wake of the deflation of mediated authorship. In spite of this weakness, the questions posed regarding the residual aura of the image are both suggestive and haunting.

Dena Shottenkirk