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 Mon Levinson  (1926 - 2014)

About: Mon Levinson
 

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Lived/Active: New York      Known for: Op Art sculpture, construction, murals

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BIOGRAPHY for Mon Levinson
Facts/Data
Birth
1926 (Manhattan, New York City)
 
Death
2014 (Manhattan, New York City)

Lived/Active
New York

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Op Art sculpture, construction, murals

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Following is The New York Times obituary of the artist.

Mon Levinson, 88, Op Art Sculptor, Dies
By ROBERTA SMITH
APRIL 3, 2014

Mon Levinson, who used plexiglass and other nontraditional materials in becoming a prominent Op Art sculptor, creating work that actively affects the viewer’s perception, died on March 25 in Manhattan. He was 88.

His wife, Joan Gruzen, confirmed his death.

In his use of plexiglass, whiteboard and other unorthodox materials, Mr. Levinson merged sculpture with aspects of painting.

Many artists at the time, including the more austere Minimalists, often relied on outside fabricators; Mr. Levinson made his meticulous free-standing structures and wall pieces himself, sometimes by warming the plexiglass — primarily clear, but sometimes milky white or black — and bending it with his hands.

The works for which he first became known consisted of congruent layers of plexiglass sheets incised with fine lines that were slightly off register. Their discrepancies created a moiré pattern that was sometimes so active that the pieces almost seemed to move, resembling Kinetic Art, a closely linked trend from the early 1960s.

Mr. Levinson discovered that the greater the distance between the plastic sheets, the more active the moiré effect. With neither artistic nor scientific training, he likened the process of making his constructions to “discovering physics.”

Monroe Levinson was born on Jan. 6, 1926, in Manhattan. He studied economics at the University of Pennsylvania, earning a B.A. in 1948. He had no plans to be an artist, but became open to the idea in the 1950s while undergoing psychotherapy with Richard Huelsenbeck, a founder of Dada in Berlin who was also a doctor of medicine and psychiatry.

Dr. Huelsenbeck introduced him to the work of Jean Arp and the Russian Constructivists. The Constructivists’ use of nonart materials and geometry would be an important influence.

Mr. Levinson’s first works, which he called “knife drawings,” were constructed from cut and layered whiteboard that created intricate effects of shadow and reflection.

He was included in the “New Forms — New Media” exhibition at the Martha Jackson Gallery in New York in 1960 and had his first solo show at the Kornblee Gallery in New York in 1961. He was also among the almost 100 artists in “The Responsive Eye,” the Museum of Modern Art’s sprawling survey of Op Art (and Oppish art) in 1965.

In the late 1960s, Mr. Levinson’s pieces increased in scale and decreased in materiality. Using carefully directed lights and a few shaped pieces of plexiglass, he created diffuse effects of light and shadow that functioned as transitory environments. In a review of Mr. Levinson’s 1971 show at Kornblee, Grace Glueck wrote in The New York Times that these works “are immaculately crafted and do no violence to the dictum that less is more.”

Mr. Levinson exhibited in 1973 at the John Weber Gallery in SoHo, which represented numerous artists working in dematerialized ways, but the frequency of his exhibitions decreased in the ’80s and ’90s. In 1998 he exhibited at the Mitchell Algus Gallery, then in SoHo, which was dedicated to reviving the careers of neglected artists. His last substantial showing was at D. Wigmore Fine Art in 2012, when he displayed 13 pieces in a three-artist show.

His work is in many public collections, including those of the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Brooklyn Museum and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington.

Mr. Levinson’s first marriage ended in divorce. In addition to Ms. Gruzen, he is survived by a daughter from his first marriage, Nadia Levinson; a stepson, Alex Gruzen; and six grandchildren.


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