cover art for Aubrey Levinthal

Talk Art

Aubrey Levinthal

Season 15, Ep. 14

We meet artist Aubrey Levinthal from her studio in Philadelphia!!!

Softly-rendered portraits by Aubrey Levinthal explore contemporary psychology. In the works, figures go about familiar daily routines - eating, sleeping and daydreaming. The artist is inspired by a range of modernist painters, from portraitist Alice Neel to collagist Romare Bearden and modernist David Hockney. Her intentionally muted palette of predominantly grey tones is created by layering light washes of oil paint onto panels, and then scraping them down with a blade. This technique renders the skin of her characters as almost translucent - either emerging from, or dissolving into, their surfaces.

Much of Levinthal’s recent work relates to the COVID-19 pandemic. The loneliness and claustrophobia of social isolation is told through melancholic facial expressions and slumped postures. Recurring motifs, such as browning bananas and unfinished meals, allude to the passing of time, while irregularities in proportion and perspective engage the ways in which a home becomes strange when you spend all your time within it. These details embody the crux of Levinthal’s practice - how we inhabit spaces, and how they inhabit us.

Levinthal’s paintings focus on her own daily interiority and the quotidian, mostly situated in the home. More recently, Levinthal reflects on ones’ relationship to the outside world and moves the psychology away from the isolated self to a more unknown drifting space. The paintings are infused with more daylight, colour has become brighter, and the figures are larger. Shared environments, such as neighborhood coffee shops, yoga studios, hospitals, hotels and pools are fraught with nuanced tension and personal connection. Levinthal heightens the psychological space between observing and knowing. The paintings explore a sense of insecurity, self-reflection and curiosity in collective spaces. In Bagel Line (2022), a group of friends situated outside a bagel shop huddle closely together in winter coats. Their expressions range from anxious to annoyed to eager highlighting ones’ own duality. The artist projects an interior life onto these strangers: a barista, a person standing in line, a blue-haired teenager at a take-out counter, or a shopper in a clothing store. Within the paintings, objects take on abstract shapes and act as barriers. In Crab Shack (2022), two brown paper bags give the impression of a wall in front of a pensive young woman. 

Levinthal draws inspiration from the Renassiance period to Modernists such as, Mary Fedden (1915-2012), Milton Avery (1885-1965) and Fairfield Porter (1907-1975). Levinthal’s tenderly observed paintings illuminate the strangeness of daily interiority and introspection. In Yoga Mat (2022), the viewer is confronted with a lone woman in a yoga pose. The figure also doubles as an ancient sculpture, most evident in the shapes used and the manner in which the feet are depicted, as if resembling stone. This painting was directly inspired by the Egyptian sculpture titled Statue of Sitepehu (1479-1458 BCE), which is part of the permanent collection at the Penn Museum, Philadelphia.

The artist lives and works in Philadelphia, PA and is represented by Monya Rowe Gallery, NY.

Follow @AubreyLevinthal on Instagram and their official website

Follow their gallery: @Monya_Rowe_Gallery

Aubrey's new work is included in group show 'Close' at GRIMM Gallery curated by Talk Art co-host Russell Tovey from 4th March - 6th April, 2023 2 Bourdon Street, London (UK).

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