David Levinthal

(1949) American


David Levinthal was born in San Francisco and studied art at Stanford; he received an MFA from the Yale School of Art in 1973. After graduation, he worked with a classmate, cartoonist Garry Trudeau, on Hitler Moves East, a book of photographs published in 1977, in which models and toy figures are used to recreate scenes from World War II. Levinthal's first two solo exhibitions were held at the California Institute of the Arts and at Harvard, and were followed by an exhibition at the George Eastman House. After teaching photography for several years, Levinthal returned to school at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he received a degree in management science in 1981. In 1982 he opened a successful public relations firm near San Francisco. His work has been exhibited frequently throughout the 1980s and 1990s in exhibitions such as In Plato's Cave at the Marlborough Gallery and More Than One Photography at the Museum of Modern Art; ICP presented a retrospective exhibition of his work in 1997. Levinthal has won a National Endowment for the Arts grant and a Guggenheim fellowship.
In their use of miniature figures and artificial settings to construct an elaborate, three-dimensional fiction for the camera, Levinthal's photographs for Hitler Moves East suggest a strong affinity with postmodern critical theory. His appropriation of a journalistic style to restage events that occurred before his birth have earned Hitler Moves East recognition as one of the earliest examples of postmodern photography. Many of Levinthal's more recent photographic series also employ constructed scenes and take a similar approach, but they address a wide range of themes, including the combination of anxiety and sentimentality induced by nostalgia (The Wild West); and the disturbing sensuality of horror (Mein Kampf). Levinthal's controversial Blackface series employs more subtly minimal means to depict articles of mass-produced kitsch representing African Americans.
Lisa Hostetler
Handy et al. Reflections in a Glass Eye: Works from the International Center of Photography Collection, New York: Bulfinch Press in association with the International Center of Photography, 1999, pp. 220-221.
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