Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Juxtaposing Photographers: The Relative Viewpoints of Lavine and Levine

by Joe Nalven

There are many ways to curate an exhibit. Not often do we get to see skilled family members in the same exhibit. 

The Gotthelf Art Gallery will be featuring two cousins, Dana Levine and Arthur Lavine. Both are photographers.

Arthur Lavine / Woman Stockholder (Left); Dana Levine / The Goth Look (Right)

Immediately, questions abound about whether there is an aesthetic connection about time and context. Are we all related to each other, not just by family but by the times we live in?

Lavine/Levine: Relative Viewpoints

Gotthelf Art Gallery
Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center
4126 Executive Dr.
La Jolla, CA 92037
Exhibition from Sept. 11, 2013 through Nov. 27, 2013
Hours: Sunday through Friday 9 am - 5 pm

Reception: Wed. Sept. 11, 2013 at 7 pm

Joe Nalven:  What is the idea of this two-person show juxtaposition?

Dana Levine:  In our exhibition, Lavine/Levine: Relative Viewpoints, we match 24 photographs by Arthur and myself.  The viewer gets to compare our work.  Our photography looks at life from the mid-20th century to the present.  You get to see nostalgia, the contemplative side of life, the character reflected in faces, and humor.

Joe Nalven:  How do you and Arthur see with the camera?  Were you influenced by Arthur's way of seeing photographically?

Dana Levine:  We did not meet until 2007 at the San Diego Museum of Photographic Arts when we discovered we are distantly related to one another.  In the six years I have known Arthur, I have come to realize there is an amazing visual thread, woven through time and space, that somehow connects my cousin to me. 
Although I am familiar with Arthur's work and we both love street photography, i.e. taking candid shots of people unaware they are being photographed, I do not consciously copy his work.

I arrived at photography through my work as a two-dimensional painter.  I used a camera to take photographs that I could later use as inspiration for my paintings.  It was so easy to use a digital camera that I found myself taking many more shots.  I soon discovered many of my photos would not make good paintings but would make good photographs.  That's how I started exhibiting my photographic work as well as my paintings. 

In terms of seeing through a camera, what I like best is to look for interesting body language, or people in unguarded moments.   For example, my photograph of Girlfriends was taken last year in Rome and shows girls looking at a cellphone.  The shot tells a story of girls sharing a fun moment.  My image is paired with Arthur's Friends taken more than 50 years ago, but viewer experiences the happiness of friendship in both.

Arthur's work is straightforward and journalistic but he uses his images to tell a story, frequently in a cinematic way.  In Central Park Snowfall, the man walking away in the distance could evoke the final frame of a film.   Similarly, the woman in my Figure in the Mist is walking away from the camera;  I was fortunate to be ready with my camera because a second later she had turned the corner and disappeared into the conservatory.

Joe Nalven:  How do these various juxtapositions or complements fit together into a total exhibit?

Dana Levine:  We come from different generations. And our life experiences are different. This informs our art. Also, Arthur works with a film camera in black and white and I work with a digital camera and Photoshop.  The outcome - the photographs - resonate with one another. The subjects, the composition, and the imagery connect our art. You can see similarity in how we view the world.

Arthur Lavine / Girls on a Slide (Upper);
Dana Levine / Children at Play (Lower)
For example:  Arthur's Girls on a Slide, shot in the midwest and taken decades before my recent photo of Children at Play on the Beach in front of the La Jolla Shores Hotel, presents both the same subject matter and diagonal compositional elements as mine. 

We paired Arthur's Bridle Path, Central Park, filmed in black and white, with my Vermont Farm, shot in color on a digital camera and converted to black and white using Photoshop.  A bridge in Manhattan's Central Park and a rusty farm machine in a meadow are reminders that timeless, beautiful images can be found anywhere, anytime.

Joe Nalven:  Are there any statements about reality that the viewer might draw from your respective visualizations?

Dana Levine:  I think the most telling realization a viewer will come to is a reminder that life has not changed all that much through the years.  Teddy's Barbership has given way to Tattoo Parlor.  Conclusion: the activities of daily living have altered only slightly.   The poses and attitude in Man outside Cinema and Roman Profile show men who could be brothers relating to each other across the generations.  In these four photographs, the compositional elements reinforce that knowledge.

Arthur has a gentle sense of humor which clearly can be seen in his Greenwich Village while I take a satirical look in What to Wear at the Fair.  The figures here are saying to the viewer, "I'm here and this is me so get off my case."

Arthur Lavine / Greenwich Village (Left); Dana Levine / What to Wear
at the Fair (Right)
Arthur composes his shot when he looks in the camera viewfinder and in recent years rarely cropped his images in the final print.   However, Working Hands is dramatically cropped and never printed any other way.  Arthur made this image while still a photography student, and the photo was included in The Family of Man exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in 1955.   (This exhibition is still traveling the world and the book based on the exhibition was a best seller.)  My photograph, Trolley Dance, is also cropped to focus on the body and strength of the central dancer.

Arthur Lavine / Working Hands (Left); Dana Levine / Trolley Dance (Right)

Dana Levine / South Bay, Salt Works (Upper);
Arthur Lavine / Building Fantasy (Lower)
In at least one case the contrast between our work is a lot stronger than the similarity.  Although the subject matter is the same, the differences are immediately apparent in View across Wall Street and Windows and Flag.  Arthur has created a dynamic black and white look down Wall Street with flags flying, crowds of people, and traffic jammed. I multiplied and then rotated the side of one mirrored office building reflecting back a flag to create a symmetrical design in color.

Joe Nalven:  Where do you get your inspiration?

Dana Levine:  When I see something or someone that reverberates within me.  I take multiple shots, trying to capture it before it disappears.

Nb.  Many of the photographs referenced in this article require a visit to the Gotthelf Gallery. Go and enjoy the photography.


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