Liste Showtime

Online  September 11-20, 2020

Concurrent with Liste Art Fair Basel and Jennifer Levonian’s participating in “Rewriting our Imaginations,” the gallery is pleased to screen a selection of the artist’s animations, each made with thousands of collaged watercolor paintings using stop-motion technology. The works will be accessible to view on September 11 through 20.

Levonian (b. 1977, West Virginia) lives and works in Vigo, Spain. Her work has been exhibited at venues including Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibits; National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.; Sarah Lawrence College, New York; Exit Art, New York; the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, OH; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia; and Sante Fe Art Institute, New Mexico. Levonian has been a resident at Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, Atlantic Center for the Arts, Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and the Millay Colony for the Arts. She received her BA from The College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia, and her MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design, Providence. In 2009, she was awarded the  Pew Fellowship in the Arts.
Jennifer Levonian
Agitated Still Life, 2020
acrylic on paper
16 3/4 x 12 7/16 inches

Jennifer Levonian
Lost Islands of Philadelphia, 2018
TRT: 10:00 minutes

Painstakingly crafted from hundreds of individual paintings, Jennifer Levonian’s semi-autobiographical, stop-motion animations often feature a female protagonist trying to break free from social rituals and clichés. Jennifer Levonian creates cut-paper animations that explore the ambivalence of everyday life by focusing on things which go unnoticed and transforming them into bizarre and uncanny events.

Lost Islands of Philadelphia, 2018, features a woman and her daughter engaged in a scripted, daily routine interrupted by the daughter’s quest, inspired by a library book, to find Smith and Windmill Islands, two recreational features that were removed from the Delaware River in 1894 to make way for shipping traffic. Philadelphia serves as the backdrop for this and the artist’s other animations, all of which are engaged in provocative critiques of contemporary cultural life. In her often biting and humorous works, topics such as gentrification, consumerism, class, and gender are addressed alongside references to film, art, and literature.

Jennifer Levonian
Xylophone, 2016
TRT: 8:47 minutes

In Xylophone, we follow the path of a sleep-deprived pregnant woman, ambivalent to the routines of middle class life, who impulsively steals a goat from a petting zoo. Chaos and freedom ensue in this surrealist narrative told from a distinctly feminine perspective.

“Jennifer Levonian’s imaginary world is just like late-capitalist reality, except that in it your secret revolutionary fantasies come to life. In their herky-jerky pacing as much as in their fierce critique of the dehumanizing forces of contemporary life, her animations of watercolor-painted cutouts call to mind William Kentridge’s charcoal sequences. Imagine Kentridge’s Soho Eckstein driven mad by the produce at Whole Foods, wetting his hair under the lettuce sprayers and playing a Pom bottle with a carrot.

Levonian’s humanism is lighter than Kentridge’s, but the paper-doll simplicity of her method and the through lines of longing and daring candycoat a steel blade of social perceptiveness. Her masterful expressions of alienation in the face of gentrification—not only neighborhood appropriation but also upscale grocery shopping (Buffalo Milk Yogurt, 2010) and bourgeois “backpacker” tourism of the Lonely Planet ilk (Take Your Picture with a Puma, 2010)—take aim at easy targets, but the satirical tone is humble, and the references are dead-on. This is the Portlandia of Philadelphia. Oven Sky, 2011, is a dark send-up of the coffee-swilling, pit-bull-owning, gourmet-cupcake-eating population in Fishtown, Levonian’s own transitional neighborhood, where an empty-lot garden is razed to become a dog park and a new art gallery beside a bodega for rent hosts a show called Flora & Faux-na: Explorations in Proletariat Decadence.

Levonian’s abiding interest in gender issues, as well as her insistence on notions of the individual, “local,” and authentic—provocatively similar to the hipster-consumerist values she reviles—have lately fused in meditations on the private as political. Rebellious Bird, 2011, a project Levonian completed as artist in residence at the Library Company of Philadelphia, centers on the true story of Wendy Ramsburg, a historically accurate cross-dressing Civil War reenactor. Levonian develops the resonance of Ramsburg’s patriotic and gender-bending tale by adding a voice-over of her own Mexican husband telling his mother about the project in Spanish and scenes from a sonogram in which the technician foretells the artist giving birth to a “princess.” With raccoons and pigeons making cameos throughout as symbols of a state of nature (and lovingly painted baked goods often standing in for culture), Levonian describes the world as the site of a pitched battle that puts conventional style-soaked quests for meaningful identity to shame.”

Nell McClister for BOMB Magazine

Jennifer Levonian
The Oven Sky, 2011
TRT: 4:42 minutes

Levonian's The Oven Sky is set in a quickly gentrifying neighborhood where newcomers pressure a longtime resident to turn her yard filled with garish lawn ornaments into a dog park.  As she struggles with the social and economic changes wrought by gentrification, the protagonist seems to both lament and transcend her lot, as she sings Rachel Mason's ballad The Oven Sky.

Jennifer Levonian
Buffalo Milk Yogurt, 2010
TRT: 7 minutes

Buffalo Milk Yogurt features a man who has a nervous breakdown in a gourmet supermarket while a naked woman practices yoga in a display of fall pumpkins. The piece is accompanied by an original soundtrack by Corey Fogel, a multimedia musician and performance artist based in Los Angeles.