'American Myth & Memory: David Levinthal Photographs' on view at the Dayton Art Institute

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'American Myth & Memory: David Levinthal Photographs' on view at the Dayton Art Institute
Joe Fig, Inka Essenhigh 2003, 2003.

DAYTON, OH.- Toy cowboys, Barbie dolls and baseball players set the stage for David Levinthal’s photographs and reference iconic images and events that shaped postwar America. Despite their playful veneer, Levinthal’s images provide a lens to examine the myths and stereotypes lurking within our most beloved pastimes and enduring heroes. In doing so, Levinthal encourages us to consider the stories we tell about ourselves—what it means to be strong, beautiful, masculine, feminine, and American.

“I have long been a fan of Levinthal’s photographs,” said Chief Curator Dr. Jerry N. Smith. “So many of the images look like Hollywood film stills, but from a film you can’t quite put your finger on. There is a lot to see and enjoy with his work.”

American Myth & Memory: David Levinthal Photographs at the Dayton Art Institute brings together six of the artist’s best-known bodies of work to explore some myths found in American popular culture and their place in our collective memory. Created between 1984 and 2018, the series Modern Romance, American Beauties, Wild West, Barbie, Baseball, and History all explore quintessential American themes and imagery. The exhibition includes more than 70 color photographs drawn from two recent gifts to the Smithsonian American Art Museum. View Online Preview.

In addition, the DAI presents the exclusive Focus Exhibition, Joe Fig: Other Artists featuring miniature models, paintings and photography by American author and artist Joe Fig. An admirer of art production and viewing, Fig explores artists’ studios and museum galleries as sources of inspiration and the subjects of his art.

“Fig’s fascination with the creative process, with the way artists work, and what their studios look like, has been a driving force for the artist. He has done this through making exacting copies of artists’ studios in miniature, creating small sculptures that make us look closely. We are fascinated by the skill, and we learn about artists’ spaces in the process,” shared Dr. Smith. “He then photographs these sculptures, or makes paintings of studios, for us to see on a scale to which we are more accustomed. Fig is an exceptional artist who helps us see how artists work.”

From the paint-splattered barn of Jackson Pollock to the minimalist studio of Barnett Newman, Fig reveals the process of making art, the working lives of artists, and the spaces where they create. He recreates or imagines the artists at work, comparing the studios with the pristine museum environments where works are shown. With more than 45 objects in the exhibit, Fig’s art is enjoyable on many levels, both serious and playful, all made in painstaking realism on a diminutive scale.

“We are excited to bring the work of David Levinthal and Joe Fig to the Dayton community during the Holiday season,” said Michael R. Roediger, Director & CEO. “These two artists’ works invite us into their created worlds through the use of toys and miniature sculptures that enthrall young and the young at heart!”

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