The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
8 June–17 October 2010
by NINA STEIN
Perhaps most moving, however, is the subtle loneliness of these photographs – the feeling of being ever so slightly outside of the crowd, on the tip of the curb and the edge of the frame. Levinstein's subjects are not hostile, exactly, but a slightly suspicious tone underscores a pervading vulnerability – we experience a solid handshake with unsure eyes. We are never quite sure who we’re meeting or what we are seeing, and perhaps they are not either. These people remain strangers despite the brief encounters we are offered with every shot.
And so it would seem that Levinstein succeeds in his aim to: “... Look at life – at the commonplace things as if I just turned a corner and ran into them for the first time. "We meet beautifully composed beach bums, young mothers, hustlers and hipsters – a myriad of lives and looks. We see tired socialites and cradled babies, attractive girlfriends and lecherous men. We see (with more focus than usual) all those accidentally connected lives – casual glances at the bodies and beauties of the street.
During his lifetime, Levinstein was celebrated by a host of influential figures, including Alexey Brodovitch, artistic director of Harper's Bazaar, as well as Edward Steichen, the well-known curator at the Museum of Modern Art (where Levinstein was included in several group exhibitions) and a photographer in his own right. He was associated, at the time, with Diane Arbus, Richard Avendon and Robert Frank – and was very much an important figure in that group, despite relatively limited commercial success and outside exposure. He photographed the regular people on the street, but few outside of the art world would have recognised him, and he remained until his death rather more of a photographers’ photographer.
That the Met now invites rather a lot of attention to Levinstein's worthy collection of work is a cause for celebration. Levinstein's work marks a time before photography became such a commercial endeavor, and captures a city before it swayed that way also. We are shown a candor that is rare in modern photography, and we leave the exhibition with these images and brief encounters lingering – almost surprised that such a chance encounter with a bunch of strangers can indeed be so comforting.
Out of Beirut
The work of 18 Lebanese artists has been brought together for this exhibition at Modern Art Oxford, many of them showing for the first time in the UK. Over 15 years may have passed since the end of Lebanon's civil war, but politics and memory are still major preoccupations for these artists: unsurprising in a country where the Prime Minister was assassinated last year by a car bomb, and whose civilian population is, at the time of writing, suffering in the resurgent conflict between Hezbollah and the Israeli Army.
John Baldessari: Pure Beauty
1970 was something of an annus mirabilis for John Baldessari, the so-called Godfather of Conceptualism. His doctrine is backed by an extensive teaching career, from pre-school to postgraduates. It was in 1970, on joining the faculty at CalArts, the institute founded by Walt Disney to promote interaction between performing and visual arts, that he coined the term ‘Post Studio Art’: conceptual art being, in a nutshell, ‘work that is done in one’s head’
AngloMania: Tradition and Transgression in British Fashion
Attracting those amorous of Englishness, the socialites and libertines who wear Westwood so well, the Metropolitan Museum of Art's 'AngloMania' exhibition this summer has featured internationally in haute couture magazines of the fashionable.
On Photography: A Tribute to Susan Sontag
Susan Sontag's passionate engagement with photography is the subject of a small but intriguing bit of curatorial ingenuity; a show that offers a handful of Sontag's potent statements on the medium illustrated with images that provide point and counterpoint to her ideas.