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The Brooklyn Rail

APRIL 2021

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APRIL 2021 Issue
ArtSeen

Talia Levitt: My Moon

Curated By Ché Morales

Installation view: <em>Talia Levitt: My Moon</em>, ATM Gallery, New York, 2021. Courtesy ATM Gallery.
Installation view: Talia Levitt: My Moon, ATM Gallery, New York, 2021. Courtesy ATM Gallery.

On View
ATM Gallery
March 25 – April 25, 2021
New York

A shaggy rose-pink carpet greets you when you enter the ATM Gallery—an intimate space made up of two rooms, located on Henry Street, nearby the base of the Manhattan Bridge in Chinatown. The softness under your feet recalls the spongy texture of entering a bedroom and echoes the intricate surfaces of Talia Levitt’s trompe l’oeil, still-life paintings hanging on the walls.

Talia Levitt, <em>My Moon</em>, 2021. Acrylic on canvas, 20 x 16 inches. Courtesy ATM Gallery.
Talia Levitt, My Moon, 2021. Acrylic on canvas, 20 x 16 inches. Courtesy ATM Gallery.

Levitt’s works (which range from torso-sized to 60 inches tall and are all dated 2021) sensitively depict objects atop tapestries which are cropped to suggest clothing or the body. A grid overlays the patterned backgrounds of the paintings, resulting in an acrylic texture that mimics a textile weave. Is it the weft of the fabric that we see so perfectly represented by the texture of the canvas or is it a brilliant pictorial conceit? Is it painted or is it etched into the paint? This is but one of the cheeky, illusionistic games the artist plays on her viewer.

Talia Levitt, <em>Crop Top</em>, 2021. Acrylic on canvas, 20 x 16 inches. Courtesy ATM Gallery.
Talia Levitt, Crop Top, 2021. Acrylic on canvas, 20 x 16 inches. Courtesy ATM Gallery.

My Moon, the title of the show, is an allusion to the lunar-oriented menstrual cycle. The iconography of the IUD, the intrauterine birth control device, appears in several works. The anchor-like shapes of the copper hormonal devices reimagine an enduring symbol of masculinity as a specifically uterus-centered icon. Furthermore, the recurring indexical mark of the period stain in Seeped Through the Backside (Primary) brings a sense of trauma to the forefront and probes the difference between a pile of blood and a pool of synthetic paint. Crop Top, a 16 by 20-inch canvas consisting of objects laid atop a clothed torso, positions the IUD emblem at neck height, alluding to a religious pendant. Deep V— another torso stand in—features a foot and skull similar to Andrea Mantegna’s late quattrocento depiction of the crucifixion, Lamentation of Christ.

In the back room of the gallery we see what the viewer would assume are tiny scraps of paper adhered to the wall with blue painters tape, speckled amongst the canvases hung in a row. Both the paper and tape are facsimiles—cast acrylic paint skins. These faux reference materials recall beauty advertisements ripped and pasted to the inside of a teenage girl’s locker—a constellation of keepsakes which resemble the instinctive curation of a child's bedroom—and mirror imagery found in the paintings themselves. In Levitt’s whimsical placement, she successfully conjures the fragmentary nature of memory. The sporadic emblems scattered throughout the space mimic the impressions of familiar childhood memories, speckled with fragments of Dutch still lifes, vanitas paintings, and domestic flashes of Persian rug patterns. These tender, sensory, meticulous works bridge the gap between tapestry fiber and acrylic paint.

Installation view: <em>Talia Levitt: My Moon</em>, ATM Gallery, New York, 2021. Courtesy ATM Gallery.
Installation view: Talia Levitt: My Moon, ATM Gallery, New York, 2021. Courtesy ATM Gallery.

With menstruation and birth control at the forefront of the show, we are invited to consider the duality of blood and the body when viewed by different genders. Blood, and the stains it leaves behind, exist as both the outcome of violence and an indicator of ongoing life. Levitt invites us to meditate on simultaneous loss and regeneration, and the fact that blood transcends all binary distinctions of gender and class. Equally revolutionary, Levitt’s subjects recall the accessible origin of still life; a genre of art which introduced participation and ownership by a newly affluent middle class in 17th-century Europe.

Contributors

Joachim Pissarro

Joachim Pissarro has been the Bershad Professor of Art History and Director of the Hunter College Galleries, Hunter College, New York, since 2007. He has also held positions at MoMA, the Kimbell Art Museum, and the Yale University Art Gallery. His latest book on Wild Art (with co-author David Carrier) was published in fall 2013 by Phaidon Press.

Dana Notine

Dana Notine is a Curator and Art Historian based in Brooklyn, NY. She is finishing her MA in Art History at CUNY Hunter College, where she is currently writing her thesis on the event Quiet: We Live in Public by Josh Harris. She has held positions at the Brooklyn Museum, Art21, and Smarthistory.org.

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The Brooklyn Rail

APRIL 2021

All Issues