Since the mid 70s, David Levinthal has used his particular brand of set-up photography to explore the many facets of Americana that populate the American psyche. From romanticized ideas about the nation’s short but turbulent past to grittier, more somber topics such as the country’s involvement in various wars and it’s unique history with cultural hot button issues, Levinthal has explored each subject with wit, sensitivity and a highly developed sense of pictorial design. One of his most popular series has featured the iconic Barbie doll, it’s mise-en-scènes ranging from the elegant to the risqué. This last aspect has been a recurring sub-theme in Levinthal’s work since the mid 80s. The depiction of erotica, while not particularly American, has obvious general appeal. The coy representation of sex in his Pin-Ups series is a perfect example. For Levinthal, who came of age in the 1950s, the playful aspect of the period has a special resonance. The figurines in Pin-Ups take their cue from the decade’s popular culture, which can be described as flirtatious at best (think Marilyn Monroe in Some Like It Hot). The Pin-Ups have been paired with Levinthal’s more outré series XXX, images which have a much more contemporary feel given today’s internet-focused audiences. The XXX series, like Levinthal’s Netsuke and Bad Barbie, are the flip side to Modern Romance and American Beauties, both depictions of ‘period’ imagery. Neither romanticized nor specifically ‘dated’ looking, XXX rides the fence between its relationship to toys and its relationship to fantasy, a tone similar in feeling to some of the more emotionally complicated series Levinthal has created in the past. As a final nod to ‘retro’, the series has been printed in sepia tones, further complicating the ambivalent nature of the work.
David Levinthal was born in San Francisco and received his MFA in Photography from Yale University. He has had numerous solo and group exhibitions at institutions including the Whitney Museum of American Art, NY; the San Jose Museum of Art, CA; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA; Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, Japan; the Museum of Modern Art, NY; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA; Galleria d'Arte Moderna, Bologna, Italy; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY; Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona, Spain; Neues Museum Weserburg Bremen, Germany; and the Fotomuseum Winterthur, Zurich, Switzerland, among others. His work is featured in many public collections, including the Art Institute of Chicago, IL; The Brooklyn Museum of Art, NY; Centre Pompidou, Paris, France; the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; the International Center of Photography, NY; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY; the Museum of Modern Art, NY; the Whitney Museum of American Art, NY; and the Polaroid Collection, MA. History, Levinthal’s most recent series, debuted at the George Eastman House in Rochester, NY. His forthcoming retrospective, organized by the Smithsonian Institution, D.C., is scheduled to open at the Eastman Museum, Rochester, NY in 2018. David Levinthal lives and works in New York.