During the 2019 Benefit Art Auction, we partnered with the Department of Art History at the University of Kansas to provide background and insight on participating artists and their work. David Cateforis, Department Chair and Art History Professor, led students through the selection, research, and writing process for the Art Here, Art Now blog series. We would like to thank these students for sharing their unique perspective on the art that appeared in the auction, and will continue to share their essays.
This week’s essay is particularly apropos as Judith G. Levy’s new exhibition, be/long/ing (and) a/part/ing, opens with a reception this Friday, May 17, 5-7pm.
Maggie Vaughn, PhD student in Art History at the University of Kansas, on Judith G. Levy
Judith G. Levy’s work, Splendid Country Roads, Refuge Co., South Dakota (2011), evokes the picturesque aesthetics of vintage postcards on a monumental scale. The five-foot-wide digital collage mimics the exaggerated perspectives and oversaturated colors typical of scenic early twentieth-century American travel postcards. The print’s horizontal composition offers a sweeping view of early automobiles traveling on a forked road in a lush green landscape. Although the scene’s location is identified through the work’s title printed in the bottom left corner, its credibility unravels as viewers discover the artwork’s absurd subject matter. Along the left side of the road, Native Americans, in what appear to be traditional clothing, sit and stand in front of white tipis. Two American flags mark their village and act as patriotic counterparts to the miniaturized Statue of Liberty that faces them from the right side of the composition. Any doubts about the fictive nature of the image dissolve with the realization that Refuge County, South Dakota does not exist.
As part of Levy’s Panoramic Postcards series, Splendid Country Roads, Refuge Co., South Dakota raises critical questions about the legacies of American histories and landscapes, recurrent subjects throughout the artist’s body of work. By digitally collaging elements of found postcards into a nearly seamless composition printed on archival paper, the artist creates an absurd historical construction that initially appears familiar. In 2010, Kansas City’s Charlotte Street Foundation chose Levy’s Panoramic Postcards to hang in City Center Square in conjunction with their Urban Culture Project. The award-winning artist has held residencies and exhibited works across the United States and Canada.