My work is about reducing forms to basic elements: structure, support, surface, materials.
9 Questions to Daniel Levine.
American artist, living and working in New York City.
What is your art about?
I’ve been focused on monochrome, or single-color painting, since 1990. My work has consistently been about reducing forms to basic elements: structure, support, surface, materials. Drawing about drawing; painting about painting. Distilling it down to an essence, a self-awareness.
I see the value of monochrome in its being a strategy, a technique. I chose it, or gravitated towards it, due to its self-imposed limitations, but it is an extremely expandable form, and rather subjective about color, scale, and surface. I don’t abide by its “rules,” and while it is usually regarded as elitist and difficult, I find it quite alive and accessible. I think of monochrome as the ultimate parody of, and the ultimate tribute to, painting. And in the end it’s just paint on cotton, and I’m going to make the best painting possible.
Please tell us more about your working process, routine, your studio set up and the way you approach new artworks.
I try to arrive the studio early in the morning, when the daylight is strong.
That way I can see the failures (and successes) more clearly.
I usually fall asleep the night before knowing the “what” that I’ll be working on the next day, pondering the “why,” but not knowing the “how.”
On the way to the studio I’ll pick up a cup of coffee on the colder days; iced coffee during the summer months. I’ll bring along a sandwich, because if I leave the studio for lunch I’ll keep on walking. Music playlists are random, and when I’m painting I’m only thinking about the next brushstroke, how to fix whatever I’ve ruined (face it: more mistakes are made than not) or follow a new path, and what to have for dinner.
What is fertiliser for your work?
Not art so much, although there are many artists I admire; but architecture, as it has rules, and relates to human presence, light, space, and the nature of materials; film, music, and literature (form, narrative, and structure); and long walks and road trips, as that gives me time to think – being in the world as well as a part of it. In the studio I’ll read various articles (news and art-related), but the only references I have on hand is a Hammershoi monograph, and a faded William Eggleston image I cut out of a magazine. I’ll be bringing the monograph home as it’s been a distraction.
Who or what has recently impressed you?
I recently saw Bram Bogart’s work in London, which I thought was fantastic; also this year I became aware of Ilse d’Hollander’s work, I really loved a recent show of Callum Inness’s pastel drawings, and thought that the recent Matt Connors show was very interesting. I also saw a small Raoul de Keyser drawing that brought me to tears.
Have a beer with an artist of your choice? Whom?
I’d rather have a beer with a friend, but take a walk with an artist.
What’s your favourite city and why?
I suppose New York, just because I’m that rare breed, a native of this city. It’s my home and I love the walkability as well as the cultural and culinary options. But I still look for a way out, to the clear light of West Texas, the walkability of Paris, or the back roads of upstate. I need a new favorite city.
What’s your favourite restaurant and why?
Years ago I had favorite bars, but now any restaurant that someone takes me to would qualify.
What would you do with five euro found in the streets?
Buy a good cup of coffee.
Do you have any dream projects in mind that you would like to do in the future?
Not a project, but I can easily imagine my work installed in certain venues.
“Thalia” 2012-2014, oil on Cotton
76.2cm x 74.93cm
Studio view – work in progress
Studio view – work in progress
All images © Daniel Levine
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