Joshua Levine at Los Angeles Art Association/Gallery 825
By Genie Davis
Through April 21st
At LAAA’s Gallery 825 through the 21st, Joshua Levine’s solo exhibition, Laetiporus Leeway is a mix of natural wonder and art. This is a magical world, one that could be inhabited by fairies or tribal ancestors, or at least created by them.
Levine’s crazy-beautiful work is all about the ‘shrooms. The exhibition is designed to represent bracket or shelf fungus, a depiction of the Laetiporus mushroom species, a genus of edible mushrooms. This is a sculptural work that balances a kind of delicate, patterned overall design with the meaty, glowy, golden red/brown mushroom sculptures themselves. These shelf mushrooms form a series of shelves, resemble continents, evoke strange, just-forming creatures. The work is both delicate and hearty, much like mushrooms themselves.
So why mushrooms? Levine’s fascination stems from their different properties, and the fact that the mycelium they contain makes them the so-called “internet of the planet.” They can exist just about anywhere on earth, including, with Levine’s assistance, the walls of an art gallery.
The artist’s work frequently focuses on elements of nature. His past work included hybrid animal sculptures he created with darker underpinnings of biotechnology and cloning. Indeed, the artist’s statement on his work lists linked phrases such as “better living through science…bio-pharms, corporate branding…breeding tomorrow’s medicine.” He compares the basic building blocks of life to child’s toys, poses questions as to who owns an individual’s DNA, and explores current genetic manipulations and technology. Science fiction and science, scientific research and manipulation – these are the subjects that fascinate and drive Levine, and which certainly infuse his current exhibition at Gallery 825.
His mushrooms are deliberately large, lush, and tactile. One imagines the smell of damp earth and the rubbery tang of edible mushrooms culled from beneath a tree.
They are reminiscent of sea creatures, of mysterious prehistoric life. Or simply, they are mushrooms that glow from within. They are as nuanced and textured and magical as nature on hyper drive. The walls behind them are streaked with pale green and pink, subtle watery discharges that could be found on a rock face in a rain forest. The process of creating the illusion of mushrooms so fertile they grow in a gallery begins there, with that backdrop. The depth and visual heft of the mushrooms themselves comes from Levine’s multi-layered creation of them, using what the artist terms “barn red” stain, air brushed shading, fluorescent paint, glow in the dark paint, and more stain.
These sculpted mushrooms are almost sensual, layered with color and a ripeness that is palpable from the moment a viewer enters the gallery space. A grouping of them are positioned in a crevice between gallery room and door; others seemingly randomly grow in large and smaller shaped clusters across the walls. Fecund, fascinating, and sculpturally both realistic and surreal, Levine’s 21 large cultures and a variety of smaller and individual mushrooms create an exhibition that is both oddly ethereal and earthy.
Gallery 825 is located at 825 N. La Cienega in West Hollywood.
Behind the Scenes: Photos from Joshua.