diana levinson
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Introduction by Louis A. Zona
Director, Butler Institute of American Art

The arts are a celebration of life. The artist's role has always been to absorb the world, both man-made and natural, and filter it back to us through intelligent imagination. How boring art would be were it a mere reflection of life and how vital it becomes when it is about the innovative breaking of new ground. Great art through the ages has been that which tells us what we do not know. It delivers us to places that our minds cannot easily imagine and excites us with new discoveries and new possibilities.

I am drawn to the paintings of Diana Levinson for this very reason. Her work is about adventuring beyond the known. It values ideas and attempts to offer us visual experiences that inspire thoughtful analysis while maintaining its aesthetic purpose.

Abstract Expressionism was the high-water mark for American painting. There is no question that this movement which had its roots in the emotional painting of Van Gogh and Matisse, the improvisational methods of Miro, and the spatial restructuring of Picasso's Cubism, would redirect the visual arts internationally. And while we may connect it to the mid-twentieth century, what remains clear is that extraordinary talents, such as Diana Levinson, have given the movement new life. Her canvases echo the accomplishment of the first generation of the New York School and, in fact, recall the work of such artists as James Brooks, Philip Guston and Joan Mitchell. And while much has happened since Pollock and his colleagues burst on to the scene in the 1940's, the art of Diana Levinson has both kept the basic tenets intact while presenting us with a brand of "Action Painting" that is contemporary in structure and intent. One principle distinguishing trait is seen in her ability to deal with space. A major component of Abstract Expressionism was that it lived in Picasso's shallow space. In other words, Pollock's work exists on the picture plane. Levinson's work, while it also relies on surface treatments, appears to move into a deeper illusionistic space. You look at them and into them. You are captivated by the romantic gesturing of the work while at the same time marveling at the complexity of their structure or organization.

She is, as well, a wonderful colorist who understands the dynamics of color. Her works rely upon the tensions created by color and its ability to assist in the organizational process. Her use of dark tones, strategically placed, insures that sense of depth of which I spoke, while providing an outstanding organizational tool. Shades, or darker toned areas, will also make possible bridges that move our eye from shape to shape. She understands, as few artists do, that painting, in competing with the moving images of video, must incorporate movement if only perceived. Hans Hoffman, one of the forerunners of Abstract Expressionism, preached what he called "push-pull" theories. He tried to share his belief that the dynamic that happens when two shapes are placed on the canvas, and two colors are employed, that a genuine energy happened. A dynamic is at work which he taught could be controlled. Diana Levinson's brilliance as an artist is that she accomplishes this and does so with a consistency that would have pleased Hoffman. Clearly she is not only a wonderfully skilled artist but like those who are accomplished in any field, remains a student of that field. Cezanne said that Courbet "is my father." Despite Cezanne's monumental accomplishment, he continued to learn from nature and to be inspired by the genius of his contemporaries. Diana Levinson's success tells me that like significant artists before her, she continues to study and to grow. We can only imagine the level of success that lies ahead.
Diana Levinson has consistently pushed to develop her craft, simultaneously striving for intimacy with her work. She began painting 30 years ago and attended the San Francisco Institute of Art's BFA Program. Diana's work and life share a common element – the search for risk beneath convention.