Political Discourse : Jack Levine

March 31, 2005 — May 22, 2005

Bandwagon (Four More Years)

Jack Levine, Bandwagon (Four More Years)

Since the 1930s, Jack Levine's acerbic wit and sardonic eye have focused on those he sees as political movers in an imperfect world, a world filled with politicians, gangsters, cops, critics and collectors of art. This exhibition celebrates the high-spirited, always opinionated artist, featuring rarely seen paintings and prints from private collections. Levine's life-long love for the Old Masters and his rigorous dedication to technique led to the development of a multi-faceted style in which distortions are used for emphasis and highlights are refined to a jewel-like brilliance.

Levine grew up in Boston's South End, the youngest of eight children born to Lithuanian immigrant parents. In 1930, at the age of 14, he was accepted into a painting program at Harvard taught by Denman Ross. By the age of 21 he was employed in the newly formed Works Progress Administration and his WPA paintings Card Game and Brain Trust were exhibited at New York's Museum of Modern Art. The following year, MOMA acquired Levine's painting The Feast of Pure Reason, bringing the artist national recognition. The painting is still considered one of Levine's seminal works, a bitter commentary on what the young artist perceived to be an unholy alliance between cops, politicians, and criminals.

After serving in the Army during World War II, Levine married artist Ruth Gikow and moved to New York City. In 1952 Boston's Institute of Contemporary Art organized a major retrospective of his work, which traveled widely until closing at New York's Whitney Museum of American Art in 1955. In the 1960s Levine turned increasingly to print-making, continuing with his stated goal of producing human-interest subjects in ways that evoked the Old Masters. Between 1960 and 1975 Levine's subject matter ranged from the American civil rights movement and prison conditions in Franco's Spain to a series.

Boston Expressionism at the Danforth Museum of Art

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