Joel D. Levinson: An Independent Vision of the Human Condition

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Joel D. Levinson - Untitled #50 (From Fleamarket Series)
Joel D. Levinson - Untitled #50 (From Fleamarket Series)

Joel D. Levinson was born in Bridgeport, CT on April 24, 1953. He received a BA in Communications in 1975 and a Masters in Visual Arts in 1978 from the University of California, Berkeley. During his time at the University of California, Levinson was elected president of the university's photographic organization and received the Eisner Award in 1978 from the university for "Outstanding Achievement in Photography".

Levinson has had two books to date, including "Fleamarkets" and "Joel D. Levinson, Photographs". A third book, "After Eden", is currently in the works. There have been more than 50 magazine and international print articles featuring his work, including Aperture, Art, Artforum, Artfactum, Arts, Artweek, High Performance, Horizon, Interview, New Art International, People, Picture and Zoom.

Joel D. Levinson - Fractions (From Mass Media Series)
Joel D. Levinson - Fractions (From Mass Media Series)

Besides these two books, Levinson is also listed in Witkin and London's The Photograph Collector, the Macmillan Biographical Encyclopedia of Photographic Artists & Innovators; and Of People and Places: The Floyd and Josephine Segel Collection of Photography. He has been included in every edition of Who's Who in American Art since 1984. He is also in the Auer & Auer and the George Eastman House databases of photographers.

Levinson has had more than 31 one-man shows, including shows at the Center for Creative Photography-Tucson, the O.K. Harris Gallery, the Lamagna Gallery, the Mateyka Gallery, the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Art Museum of South Texas, the Louisville J.B. Speed Art Museum, the Midwest Museum of American Art, the Crocker Art Museum, the Runter Museum of Art, the Davidson Art Center (Wesleyan University), the America Haus-Berlin, the Sprengel Art Museum, and the Wilhelm Hack Art Museum.

Museum and institutional collections that include Levinson's work (not including the above institutions): the Addison Gallery of American Art, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Bibliotheque National-Paris, the Boston Museum of Fine Art, the Brandeis Institute, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the California State University-Long Beach Library, the Denver Art Museum, the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University, the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Musee Nicephore Niepce, the Museum fuer Kunst und Gewerbe-Hamburg, the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Richmond Art Center, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the University of Minnesota Art Gallery, the University of Oklahoma Museum of Art, the Winnipeg Art Gallery and the Yale University Art Gallery. His work is also in other important corporate and individual collections.

Levinson has several bodies of work beginning with his "Fleamarket" work, which he shot and printed in 1975-86. He took these images at flea markets and swap meets all over the state of California. His second book "Fleamarkets" was published by Braus Editions in 1986 with accompanying essays by Louis Stoumen and Helmut Gernsheim.

"Black Market" (or Mass Media Series), Levinson's second group includes both color and black and white prints and was made largely during the 1979-80 period. Again the black and white prints, largely of multiple-exposed television images, are only available as vintage prints. The color work, which is of intricate multiple-exposures of magazine articles and advertising, is available on Cibachrome paper.

Levinson also produced a series of "Still Lifes" during the late 1970s, notably "Boots".

His most current body of work, which is from the 1985-1999 period, has not yet been released, pending a new book. Entitled "After Eden", this new all-color oeuvre covers the English Gardens in Munich, Germany--a park known for its casual public nudity.

Besides his contemporary art photography, Levinson is also known for movie poster work and has been hired by Paramount Pictures, Warner Brothers, Universal, Columbia Pictures, Tri-Star Pictures, Disney, Miramax, UGC and many other film studios.

Comments about Levinson's work:

"How can you express your feeling about a woman you see for the first time and know you are in love with her? How do you analyze a picture? I don't think you do. If it hits you in the pit of your stomach, that's it. Joel Levinson's pictures affect me this way...The word 'artist' has suffered a lot lately. Levinson's sensitivity and understanding of mankind gives the word meaning again." --Shirley C. Burden

"During the past few decades, photography has been particularly influenced by three masters of the medium: Robert Frank, Diane Arbus, and Garry Winogrand. Each of these photographers have brought new insights and styles to the medium which have helped to expand traditional understanding and appreciation of 'documentary' photography. Joel Levinson, a unique talent in America's newest generation of photographers, is among the artistic beneficiaries and heirs to the aesthetic freedom, yet whether such influences were absorbed by him consciously or unconsciously is of little importance. His work remains independent with any influence serving only as a foundation for his imagery." --James L. Enyeart

"Levinson's sensibility is drawn to the human condition. He works in the great tradition of realist photography. It is as difficult and meaningful for him to capture out of the rush of time that one luminous moment of posture or human relationship or juxtaposition of people and things as it is for Ansel Adams to fix on paper a uniquely memorable aspect of the ever-changing light over Yosemite Valley...Levinson's technique is clean, his eye is quick and his photographs are informed with a striking and personal power. His best pictures stick in the mind and are felt in the heart." --Louis Stoumen

"They form part of a brilliant reportage showing subtle perception of the photographer. Levinson's pictures are slices of life and in the best tradition of the modern classics from Paul Martin to Henri Cartier-Bresson." --Helmut Gernsheim

"Levinson makes us look at our viewing...Levinson recognizes that TV transforms without informing, and his photographs of TV effectively inform by transforming...Levinson's ironic self-indulgence is to give photographs meaning, to give Narcissus a polarizing filter...Levinson makes TV readable in all its moral seditiousness, sedition against the general creative imagination, against the applied and acquired meaning of meaningless images, against the meaningful itself...In these photographs, the message is the medium." -- Derek Bennett (from Evidence of the Unreal)