Phillip Levine shows “Stories” at Prographica/Koplin Del Rio in Seattle’s Pioneer Square

October 7th, 2018  |  Published in September 2018

Phillip Levine’s sculptures are a sculptor’s dream. These are sculptures to learn from, more eloquent than any text and more accessible. To see the work in person is to step into an intimate space, graced with a lightness of spirit. We are invited to wander through that space, allowing our sense of gravity to lead us. The abundant negative space only adds to the tremendous gravity conveyed by the bronze castings. Their statements about space are both rigorous and firm. Their presence in space charms. Also on display are a selection of sensitive nude sketches by the sculptor.

“Layers”, 2015, Bronze, 12.5″ x 10″ x 4″

 

“Caribou”, 1986, Bronze, 13” x 14” x 11”

“Layers” (2015, Bronze, 12.5″ x 10″ x 4″) shows the contours of the tube-shaped body, a motif echoed in “Caribou”. The gesture is captured within the abstracted figure. The essence of the form is laid bare, allowing the viewer to enter Levine’s created space.

“Actor”, Bronze, 2014, 13″ x 9″ x 6″

In “Actor” (Bronze, 2014, 13″ x 9″ x 6″), the burlap-textured bronze calls arte povera to mind, particularly the work of Alberto Giacometti. Levine’s figure seems to speak of the hollowness of existence – that we are only actors on the stage, full of furious sound.

“Bell Tower”, 2000, Bronze, 28.5” x 14″ x 14”

A more elaborate sculptural statement appears in the simply constructed “Bell Tower” (2000, Bronze, 28.5” x 14″ x 14”). A bell could be rung out of fear or out of happiness. The shifting shape of the tower structure and the stumbling rush of the figure suggest the former, yet the formal success of the image and the sinuous wave of the bell rope suggest help is being summoned. All is not lost.

In “Fear and Habit”, the cage’s bars echo in the figures’ bodies. They seem to exist outside the cage, yet they are irrevocably attached and therefore defined only in its context, as if the world existed only of a thousand bars.

“Fear and Habit”, 2013, Bronze / Steel, 33″ x 14″

“Leave it Alone” speaks eloquently enough to succeed without its provocative title. Here, the bodies are whole, playing in and out of a hemispherical shape suggestive of the world. Their carefree play into and out of that shape illustrate our attachment along with our freedom and our agency.

“Leave it Alone”, 2001, Bronze, 8.5″ x 9″

–Martha Dunham

Leave a Response