With a B.A. in Fine Art to back up his love for illustration, graffiti art, and pop surrealism, Jonathan LeVine considers himself an art activist. Which is pretty on point considering the artists that first sparked his interest years ago such as Dalek, Shepard Fairey, Jeff Soto, and Camille Rose Garcia are all now lowbrow luminaries. With both the 16th Annual Swap Meet, a group show of emerging artists, and Dalek's new exhibition, Desperate, Rejected & Angry,
opening this weekend at LeVine's eponymous Chelsea gallery, Samantha Gilewicz
caught up with the discerning eye to talk street art and Space Monkeys... What's your background in art?
I have a B.A. in Fine Art from Montclair State University. I started working as an independent curator in 1994 by organizing art shows in bars and raw warehouse spaces, including the now defunct CBGB CB's 313 Gallery. My motivation for curating exhibitions was to present work that wasn't seen as fine art by the traditional art establishment. It was my love for underground comics, graffiti art, rock poster art, album cover art, etc. that motivated me more than the education I had received. What is it about these types of art that you are so drawn to?
They speak to me on a very personal level. I like street art for its rawness and energy. The more pop-oriented work reflects our culture and the culture I live in. I like humorous work and much of the work reflects this. I also like bright colors and cartoony imagery. Street art is gaining a lot of acceptance and admiration nowadays. What do you think can be attributed to this?
That's a tough question. A lot of it probably has to do with advertising, lifestyle magazines, and youth culture fashion companies who support this type of work. Also, some artists like Barry McGee, Shepard Fairey, and Banksy have become very well know through galleries, museums, and advertising too. A younger generation is coming up and they don't want the art their parents have. They want the art that reflects their generation. Of course, a lot of it is trend-based as many things go. Who are a few of your favorite contemporary artists?
Many of my favorite artists are artists I represent. To name just a few, I like Jeff Soto, Ray Caesar, Jonathan Weiner, Camille Rose Garcia, and AJ Fosik. Some artists I like that I don't represent are Barry McGee, John Currin, Lisa Yuskavage, Raymond Pettibon, Claes Oldenburg, Mark Ryden, Red Grooms, and Hillary Harkness. Who are some up-and-coming artists that are starting to catch your eye?
AJ Fosik, Andy Kehoe, Josh Keyes, Vitche, Xiaoqing Ding, Nouar Boldy, Tara Mcpherson, Audrey Kawasaki, and Andrew Foster. Who have you yet to show and would love to?
Gosh. That's a good question. I show so many artists that I love. I wouldn't mind showing Banksy, Thomas Cambell, David Ellis, and Herbert Baglione. How do you find the artists you're going to show?
A lot of the artists I work with, I have worked with for a while. I generally look for artists whose work is very fresh to me. It has to really hit me in the gut and stick in my head. You showed Dalek's work a couple of years ago. What was your first impression?
I first saw Dalek's work in the apartment of legendary graffiti artist Zephyr around 1999. Like most work I enjoy, it struck me as being very unique and playful. What do you think of Dalek's Space Monkeys?
I think they are very strange creatures. I am still trying to figure them out...Jonathan LeVine Gallery
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