Painter Matvey Levenstein and art historian Jason Rosenfeld discuss creative life in the context of our new social reality.
We’d like to thank Kasmin Gallery for supporting this conversation. We are deeply grateful for their support of the Brooklyn Rail and our community.
Matvey Levenstein was born in Moscow, U.S.S.R. in 1960 and currently lives and works in New York City. Levenstein’sdelicate and exquisitely rendered paintings explore themes of history and representation. His paintings and works on paper are filtered through the most traditional painterly genres—the landscape, the still life, and the portrait—and are imbued with a distinctly literary sensitivity; they are quiet meditations on the relevance of Romanticism in the 21st Century.
Levenstein chooses his subjects intuitively, drawing from his immediate surrounds, preoccupations, and friends. Beginning with snapshots, he captures a scene’s formal properties—be it an old pilgrim cemetery, or a nave in an empty church, or a sunset on the beach—before beginning his material investigation. Working with a limited palette on toned grounds, Levenstein’s distinctive compositions are characterized by the layers of paint built up and scraped back slowly and meticulously over many months, and by their foregrounding of nature in all its dramatic variety: the looming power of a stormcloud, tree branches dissecting a winter sky, and more quietly, a vase of cut flowers sitting on a glass table. Levenstein’s work ranges in size and materials, including large sumi ink drawings, and smaller, delicate works realized on linen, copper, and wood.
Levenstein was born in 1960 in Moscow, U.S.S.R. and lives and works in New York City and Orient, NY. He received his M.F.A. at Yale School of Art, New Haven, CT, after attaining a B.F.A. from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL, and the Moscow Architectural Institute, Moscow, U.S.S.R. Levenstein teaches at the School of Visual Art, New York, NY. He is included in the recent publication Landscape Painting Now by Todd Bradway. Levenstein has been the recipient of several prestigious awards, honors and residencies. These include the Rome Prize, American Academy in Rome, Rome (2003); the Penny McCall Foundation Award, New York (2002); the Marie Walsh Sharpe Art Foundation Studio Grant (1998); the Katherine J. Horwitch Grant, Jewish Foundation (1985-1987); and the Anna Louise Raymond Traveling Fellowship, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago (1983). Read more
In the Rail:
- Matvey Levenstein by Jason Rosenfeld (2019)
- Matvey Levenstein with Phong Bui (2009)
- Looking at Late de Chirico: Matvey Levenstein, Stephen Ellis, and Lisa Yuskavage
Jason Rosenfeld,Ph.D., is Distinguished Chair and Professor of Art History at Marymount Manhattan College. He was co-curator of the exhibitions John Everett Millais (Tate Britain, Van Gogh Museum), Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde (Tate Britain and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.), and River Crossings (Olana and Cedar Grove, Hudson and Catskill, New York). He is a Senior Writer and Editor-at-Large for the Brooklyn Rail. To see a ful list of Rosenfeld’s contributions to the Rail, visit this page.