October 7, 2012


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Lot 293: Joseph Levin

Lot 293: Joseph Levin


c. 1945
Oil on canvas
Signed "J. Levin" in paint lower right
Canvas: 34" x 27"; Frame: 35" x 28"
Estimate: $2,000 - $3,000
Price Realized: $2,250
Inventory Id: 3659

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After the chaotic Revolution of 1917, Russian artist Joseph Levin (born Iosif Michailovich 1894 - 1979) returned to the St. Petersburg Imperial Academy to conclude his studies under Avant-Garde artist Ilya Mashkov. By the 1920s, the young artist leaves for Siberia to undertake studies in Chinese calligraphy. Venturing to Moscow in 1923, Levin designs “Agitprop“ or politically charged graphic art to be postered throughout the city streets. These experiences reflect in Untitled (c. 1945), as playful strokes of paint bounce around the surface of the canvas, with overlapping lines and vertices resembling a language composed of unknown forms. The use of characters and bold colors bring to mind the Proun Series by El Lissitzky from the 1920s.

Levin relocates to Paris in 1926 and by 1935 emigrates to Greenwich Village in New York in hopes of flourishing within the U.S art scene. Exhibiting at the Brooklyn Museum in 1943, and at the De Young Museum in San Francisco in 1945, Levin proves his success as an artist. By 1950, he begins to produce what he describes as “Surconscious Art“. By rejecting common or natural forms, he hoped to evoke a higher cosmic understanding. In Untitled (c. 1950), the viewer is presented with tangles of white, blue and light pink, however rough lines of black paint skate along horizontal and vertical axes creating a regimented order. The subtle, gridded nature of the composition shows the influence on Levin by non-representational artists such as Piet Mondrian and Kazimir Malevich. For Levin, these works showcase his experiences and most importantly, personal reflections serving as catalysts to a higher plane of thinking and representation.

Boris Wilnitsky Fine Arts. “Joseph Levin.” Boris Wilnitsky Fine Arts: Russian Art. Wilnitsky, 2011. Web. 14 Aug. 2012. .Boris Wilnitsky Fine Arts. “Pioneer of Surconscious Art.” Boris Wilnitsky Fine Arts: Russian Art. Wilnitsky, 2011. Web. 14 Aug. 2012..