Daniel Levine, Bristol, 2013

Daniel Levine, Bristol, 2012 – 2013, oil on cotton, 12 x 11 3/4 inches. Image courtesy the artist. (Larger)

Daniel Levine’s paintings speak (sometimes quietly, sometimes less so) about color, surface, material and light. But mostly his monochromes—which is the only kind of painting he makes, and he’s been making them for over 25 years—speak about the unremitting pleasures of long looking.

“You may begin…thinking of Robert Ryman,” Roberta Smith said about the kind of looking Daniel Levine’s paintings invite. She was writing about his solo exhibition last February at Churner and Churner in Chelsea—a show that was in large part about nuance and difference —close examination of which is not the only reward of seeing his paintings hang side-by-side, in relatively large numbers, and—as they did so well at Churner and Churner—annexing that gallery’s wonderful light. And also like Ryman, there’s more to Levine’s paintings than the way he puts down paint. Again, Smith:

“He works in minute, nearly invisible brush stroke…and you can almost count the layers of paint. He seems almost to love the cotton as much as the paint, and their tenderly maintained balance is a palpable strength.”

This is what I saw first when I saw his paintings in Chelsea, then later, in Greenpoint, in process on his studio walls: that he makes such good use of painting’s metaphysical qualities, that his paintings transcend the materials of their making. It’s what make Levine’s paintings entirely his own.


Recorded in Brooklyn, August 2014. Audio © 2014 Daniel Levine and Tilted-Arc.com. All rights reserved.

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Editor’s Recs:

“As much as I’m making what appears to be a monochrome, I’m not making a Monochrome; I’m making a painting, with all its tics and quirks and successes and failures. A monochrome that fails is one that is presumptuous, where the paint is put on without any depth, or surprise, or meaning besides fulfilling the role of “monochrome.” It looks simple, but it’s extraordinarily complex. In a way, monochrome is the ultimate parody of and the ultimate tribute to painting.” —White Things: Daniel Levine in conversation with Brent Hallard, (9 February 2014; Visual Discrepancies)

“There are many entry points in Levine’s paintings and more appear in the comparison of one work with another. He’s said before that his paintings aren’t as apparently ‘friendly’ as other artists’, though many viewers at the show’s opening remarked that the paintings are peaceful and meditative. Although that sounds contradictory, ‘The Way Around’ provides strong evidence that rigor and tranquility aren’t de facto incompatible.” —Noah Dillon: “Some of the paintings are smarter than me”: Daniel Levine Talks Monochrome, (30 January 2014; artcritical.com)

“The pleasures that accrue to Daniel Levine’s paintings are of a different order, they’re delicate, ethereal. Their rarefied atmosphere is circumscribed by rigorously defined and scrupulously observed parameters: Levine paints only with primary colors and white, each monochrome is contained by a razor-sharp border of raw canvas, all of the pictures are minimally off-square. In a 2004 statement, he wrote, “I’m not motivated by objects, but by the idea of them.” In conversation with John Zinsser earlier this year, Levine referred to his own paintings as being “inherently internalized”, and he further acknowledged, “…my paintings aren’t ‘outwardly friendly’…” Asked about his influences, he referenced Philip Guston, John McLaughlin and Myron Stout as ‘…the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.'” –Carl Belz, In and Around Monochrome, (12 March 2012; Left Bank Art Blog)

“…my paintings are inherently internalized. It’s one of the limitations of monochrome that I embrace. Yet outside influences become sources for my work, and provide a kind of ‘structure’.” –Daniel Levine in conversation with John Zinsser, (February 2012, NY Arts Magazine

“The nineteen ‘white’ paintings in this beautiful show operate at the epicenter of painting, inviting the viewer’s attention toward the fundamental elements – color, material, support. Within this focused zone, one is immediately drawn, not to the sameness of the works, but to a deep examination of the differences from one painting to the next.” —Steven Alexander on The Way Around, Daniel Levine at Churner and Churner, (9 February 2014, Steven Alexander Journal)

Daniel Levine joins Joianne Bittle, Jude Broughan, Anthony Campuzano, Jaime Davidovich, Dave Hardy, Karen Heagle, Nick Hornby, Jordan Kantor, Nils Karsten, Taylor Mead, and Lisi Raskin at Churner and Churner for The Last Picture Show. (Through 29 November, 2014.)

Site: DanielLevine.name

Read more Artists in Conversation, here.

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