The George Eastman Museum has acquired a large and comprehensive collection of photographs by David Levinthal as a result of donations from an anonymous patron and from Donald Rosenfeld Jr. The museum is now the most significant repository of Levinthal’s art in the world. The Eastman Museum will premiere the retrospective David Levinthal: War, Myth, Desire on June 2, 2018. The exhibition will run through December 30, 2018.
The donations feature more than 300 photographs from Levinthal’s major bodies of work, including selections from the series Bad Barbie (1972), Hitler Moves East (1972–75), Modern Romance (1982–85), Wild West (1986–89, 1993, 1998), Space (1988, 2007), American Beauties (1989), Desire (1991–92), Die Nibelungen (1993), Mein Kampf (1994), Blackface (1995–98), Barbie (1997–98), Netsuke (1997), Baseball (1998–2004), XXX (1999), Passion (2005), Hockey (2007), and History (2010–15). In addition, the museum received hundreds of early works, commissions, and outtakes, bringing its holdings of Levinthal’s work to more than 4,000 prints.
Since the mid-1970s, Levinthal has been exploring the relationship between photographic imagery and the events, characters, myths, and fantasies that shape American culture. In 1978, the Eastman Museum was the first museum to exhibit photographs from his first major series, Hitler Moves East, which effectively launched his career. Levinthal’s work has been a touchstone for conversations about theories of representation in photography and contemporary art ever since. Subsequent series investigate the overlapping of popular imagery with personal fantasy in the contexts of war, history, romance, sex, sports, space, and social stereotypes.
“Levinthal is a major figure both in the history of photography and in contemporary art, and these milestone donations are a testament to his esteem for the Eastman Museum and its mission,” said Bruce Barnes, Ron and Donna Fielding Director of the George Eastman Museum. “The museum will preserve Levinthal’s photographs for future generations and be the place to study and appreciate his art. Images of the donated works are publicly accessible via the museum’s online collection database.”
The retrospective exhibition of his work, David Levinthal: War, Myth, Desire, will open at the Eastman Museum on June 2, 2018, and will include photographs from all of his major series to date, as well as works that have rarely or never been exhibited previously. David Levinthal: War, Myth, Desire is the first museum retrospective of the artist’s work in more than twenty years and will give visitors a unique opportunity to consider Levinthal’s recent photographs alongside key works from the full scope of his career. The exhibition is curated by Lisa Hostetler, PhD, curator in charge of the Department of Photography at the George Eastman Museum, who worked with the artist and his patrons on their gifts to the collection.
To accompany the exhibition, the George Eastman Museum is publishing a deluxe collector’s box set and a single-volume monograph. The box set will consist of three books of plates on each of the exhibition’s themes—War, introduced by Garry Trudeau; Myth, introduced by David Levinthal; and Desire, introduced by Roger Rosenblatt—and a book with three essays on the artist’s work, a chronology of his career, a bibliography, and the exhibition checklist. The monograph will consist of the three essays, a selection of plates covering the three themes, the chronology and bibliography, and the exhibition checklist. The authors of the essays are Lisa Hostetler, contemporary art specialist Joanna Marsh, and art critic Dave Hickey. Either version of the publications will provide the most up-to-date, comprehensive scholarship on the artist’s work.
About the George Eastman Museum
Founded in 1947, the George Eastman Museum is the world’s oldest photography museum and one of the largest film archives in the United States, located on the historic Rochester estate of entrepreneur and philanthropist George Eastman, the pioneer of popular photography. Its holdings comprise more than 400,000 photographs, 28,000 motion picture films, the world’s preeminent collection of photographic and cinematographic technology, one of the leading libraries of books related to photography and cinema, and extensive holdings of documents and other objects related to George Eastman. As a research and teaching institution, the Eastman Museum has an active publishing program and, through its two joint master’s degree programs with the University of Rochester, makes critical contributions to film preservation and to photographic preservation and collections management. For more information, visit eastman.org.