In this solo exhibition in the front gallery space, Elissa Levy will present a new installation of assembled photographs, prints, drawings, sculpture, and found objects.
The dominant images in Levy’s installation are photographs of athletes, soldiers, politicians, and celebrities, cut from newspapers and magazines. These appropriated images are transformed through isolating, fragmenting, obscuring, and repeating. Fluorescent colored tapes and found objects such as decorative beads, plastic ribbon, and fake barbed wire visually ground, frame, and link these elements together.
Levy abstracts her human figures by excising them from their original context, and then drawing concentric rings of color on top of them, forming a sort of visual aura or halo. This treatment is centered on the cores of the bodies, so that the limbs are visually amputated at the elbows and knees. This colorful superimposition alters the figures into ghost-like apparitions. A phantom presence also is evoked by Levy’s practice of high-lighting images that bleed through from the back sides of newspaper pages. The truncation of the figures’ limbs from their torsos evoke the plethora of amputees returning from war and the phenomena of “phantom limbs,” the reported sensations that amputees feel in the parts of their bodies that are no longer there.
Other pieces in the show incorporate images of the ortolan, a small, endangered bird that is a French culinary delicacy. The preparation of this dish is so cruel that the practice has been outlawed. When eating it, one traditionally shrouds one’s head entirely in a cloth, ostensibly to trap all of the aromas, although some believe that this practice was developed by a shameful priest who wished to shield his gluttony from God. Levy incorporates an image of a table full of ortolan eaters, whose shrouded forms resemble stylized ghosts, reflecting the morbid and ritualistic nature of their hedonism.
Levy layers imagery, materials, and references to engage with issues of masculinity, power, privilege, and loss. Soldiers and politicians evoke the two-pronged waging of war from the metaphorical halls of power and the trenches, each isolated from the realities of the other. Athletes and celebrities invoke social hierarchies in which entertainers are cultural idols, and sports matches provide endless dramatizations of heroized men gearing up and going into battle. Her work also addresses the very nature of representation and perception, particularly the flood of media images and the fractured nature of information, as well as the ways the brain pieces together missing information to perceive a whole.
Levy lives and works in New York City where she has had solo and two-person exhibitions at Foley Gallery and Brooklyn Fireproof, as well as participated in group shows at White Columns, the New Museum of Contemporary Art, among others. She attended the Glenfiddich Artists in Residence Programme in Scotland and has work included in the Altoids Curiously Strong Collection.