Levinstein at The Met

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

This tightly edited and excellent show recently opened at The Metropolitan Museum and runs through October 17, so no excuse for missing it if you’re in town.

Leon Levinstein is something of an insider’s choice – being much more known and appreciated by dealers and curators than collectors or even photographers. But he’s the real deal – as almost every picture in this show demonstrates.

Based on a large donation to The Met, the exhibition features 44 prints covering the range of street people Levinstein was drawn to in the ‘60s and ‘70s. “Hipsters, Hustlers, and Handball Players” is the show title, but it might be more accurately called “Fatties, Floozies, and Fashion”. However the strange thing about the images is that however outlandish Levinsteins subjects may be, there is a generosity and a vitality to his eye that makes his characters seem almost stylish!

If you look at the pictures illustrated here, I feel that Levinstein is actually celebrating rather denigrating his subjects’ individuality and how they present themselves. It’s just that his taste is much broader than most. I think, for example, he really likes the outfit below and was simply ahead of his time in appreciating 70s fashion. As it’s pretty easy to make people look freakish, I also particularly admired Levinstein’s skill and generosity.

Ken Johnson writing in The New York Times responded in totally the opposite way. For his review click here. Let me know what you think. But to me Leon was a softie playing in a hardball world.


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