David Levine

DECEMBER 30, 2009

Once, in public, I got to tell David some of the reasons why we hold him in such high esteem.   I mentioned how his work combined many tasks at once and was masterly in all of them.  That he, better than anyone in our times, could tell a larger story within the confines of a face.   The turn of an eyelash (as in Nixon).  The cogency of a metaphor, as in LBJ shedding crocodile tears (and the croc returning the favor). How moral focus and political courage combined in him. He didn’t respond really to any of this.  He was very modest in his way;  a hard working artist who understood the truth of our lives: that nothing matters but the relationship between you and the piece of paper. Any analysis is, at its worst, bullshit, and at best, a benign distraction because it never really catches the plasticity and dynamism of a living artist’s process.  He knew what was important. The discoveries you make as an artist. The connections between the pictures and people. This was in him and in his work.  His art was always about people, their relationships to each other and systems that could elevate or crush them. As a young person in the Depression and during the war he learned from his parents and his culture (now fading) that social responsiveness could be a genuine focus of someone’s life. And so maximum integration of art, observation of systems and humanity, found its home in Levine. And he demonstrated over and over again his brilliant synthesis.  We have books of Gillray, Daumier, Nast, Grosz, Low, Mauldin and Levine which continually demonstrate mastery of this challenge. The work we do is in part the result of the conversations we all have with these geniuses all the time. And they are HERE.  Alive, burning brilliantly.  Always speaking from the place David Levine always was in life.  Always in relationship, always connected, always integrated.  And there he will be for all of us forever.

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