MARTEE LEVI – NEW YORK
Review by Roger Lipsey
An exuberant colorist of long experience and honed skill presents a cycle of work in just two or three colors and textures. An exuberant designer of dancing, multidirectional compositions presents work that relies for the most part on rectilinear pattern and steady flows. An artist who values the austere flatness of the collage tradition offers work that sometimes flickers with depth. Martee Levi takes us into a new world of quieter poetry, an adobe world.
Rooted in the School of Paris and now nearly a century old, the collage tradition offers the opportunity to design a world - to create a microcosm whose structures and energies tell us obliquely but unmistakably about our own experience. The pattern of a collage need not be translated into words and often resists, but the viewer can nonetheless take in a delightful or provocative rightness in how everything is arranged. Levi's work can refer beyond itself - to musical rhythms, ancient calligraphies and pictographs, or timeless pueblo villages, and equally to artist-ancestors ranging from Diebenkorn and Klee to Mondrian and Cezanne. But the true test is whether one's eyes and mind, and heart, come to rest in the world of these canvases with a sense of arrival and belonging.
As complex, quietly dynamic compositions, these works are of and about our time. But they evoke something else: an archaic world surprisingly native to us all.
- ROGER LIPSEY
Author of The spiritual in Twentieth-Century Art (Dove Books, Reissued 2004)
Collage Works: 2013-2015
Forward by Roger Lipsey
Inside the boundary of the canvas, details matter. It is a zone of heightened meaning and intense visual interest—or should be. In Martee Levi’s art every detail matters; every line, plane, color, texture, and the composition that unites them exerts a tiny pressure on the mind. Taking time to see and to be affected by things seen initiates dialogue with the works on exhibition. The language of new art is often unfamiliar; that is a part of its appeal, but it’s likely that with patience we’ll understand. So very much is accomplished by just waiting there with the work of art as a guide, until the visual song is heard and mind and heart intuit its message. What is said in the silent language of visual art can be surprising. It isn’t necessarily what one first thinks, it may well be that and something more. That “something more” is the theme here.
It’s good practice to inventory the influences that have contributed to an artist’s development, though that can’t tell us what is being said. A little blindly, it points toward. Let’s follow that avenue briefly. Martee Levi is a daughter of Matisse. His color harmonies and translucence and hard-earned peacefulness have fed and feed her to this day. His elegant paintings create a fresh world. Another influence. And throughout the twentieth century so many great ones: Malevich for clarity and courage, Picasso and Braque for their invention of the Cubist space, Mondrian for his severe gaiety, de Kooning and Ad Reinhardt. And then artist of our time of very nearly: the collage artist Conrad Barca-Relli and the remarkable Sean Scully, who makes bars of juxtaposed color into something as serious and beautiful as a liturgy. All influences, all Martee Levi’s adoptive family. Kinships of this kind are warming; one is less alone. Because they passed this way, on knows that there is a way, a discipline, possibility.