|KOPLOS, JANET - ART IN
March 1, 2003
Nina Levy at Feigen and Metaphor
Nina Levy has bounded onto the New York stage in the last few years with
multiple and frequent exhibitions, this season with two at once. She
regularly presents figurative sculptures made of cast and painted resin
and fiberglass, along with photographs of similar sculptures posed in
dramatic isolation against black backdrops. The figures are always
startlingly lifelike, yet never precisely to scale and always altered in
some way. Many are self-portraits.
At Feigen, an amazon in jogging clothes stood at the door wearing an
oversize clown grin that stretched nearly from ear to ear. This was
Greeter-Levy herself enlarged to 6 feet 3 inches. A naked figure-Levy
again, but smaller than life-size-sat cross-legged on a bench, embracing
herself with arms that terminated in glove-like enlarged hands. The photographs
on view also depicted disproportion and artifice, with the
artist's real head seeming to rise from a modeled body or a modeled head
dwarfing her real arms and shoulders, effects allowed by the dislocating
concealment of the black backdrops. The theme could be summarized as
"misfit," a play on words that is at first amusing but also
carries a sense of the grotesque.
At Metaphor, a small gallery in the Dumbo area of Brooklyn, Levy
presented "Other People's Heads," a selection of 21
smaller-than-life portrait heads (including, despite the claim of the
show's title, her own). Each was hung from the ceiling on a length of
clear line that placed it at the subject's actual height. The heads were
dispersed around the room as if this were an opening party, rotating
slowly on air currents as though people were mingling. The gathering
seemed animated yet eerily muted.
The heads are masterful portraits, easily recognizable if you know the
subjects-mostly New York artists, curators and dealers and rich with
details such as dimples, bags under eyes, creases in front of ears. Also
in the show were several photos, including one showing the artist's real
head beside its larger, paler duplicate, framed by her own hand and an
oversize modeled hand.
Several of the photographs are called Twin, and doubling seems to be a
philosophical constant in Levy's work. In a way, that's the nature of a
portrait. She is self-consciously, postmodernly calling attention to
the nature of what she does as an artist, the Brechtian side to her
dramatic and engaging work.
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