Joan Levinson’s minimalist works are a confluence of art and language, an exploration of linguistic structure and grammar as well as similarities between visual and literary arts. Building sentences is both a narrative and visual experience, a meeting of logic and lyric. She is fascinated with painting technique and the physical qualities of different pigments and oil media. The paintings in the exhibit have thirty or more translucent layers of oil paint, which accumulate into a complex surface that is filled with light and hints of color. The constructed, shaped canvases, which are more than support surfaces upon which an image exists, emphasize the “objectness” of the work and all its elements. They cross boundaries into sculpture.
These works confront the transitory nature of being—here and not here. Is our imagination just as real as the physical world around us? The paintings hover against the wall, sometimes appearing solid as stone with their surface, shape, and depth, yet nearly disappearing in their whiteness. The silvery words convey meaning, but also shimmer as pattern and shape and sometimes get lost in the background. Some of the works emphatically assert their presence in the world, while others live in a more ambiguous realm, a place in between.
The world has turned completely askew with the devastation caused by the coronavirus. Everything that we depended on, that we thought we knew to be true, has changed. These paintings began as an abstract theory about the transient nature of reality, a theory that has turned out to be frighteningly real.