Curating: Shira Davidi & Dorit Lautman
Dina Levy never lets go. She would like to start the morning with an uninhibited liberating spin, losing herself into the rhythm. Yet she finds herself locked within the accepted boundaries. Limited by rules and regulations. And groups.
Dina Levy’s art captures the eye in its bold colors and spectacular aesthetics. On closer observation one can see the cracks, faults, gaps, struggles and anxieties lying just beneath the naive beauty. Seen up close, the layer upon layer hint to the process in which they were painted, but also to what’s hidden behind the beauty: the tension, the intensity, the premonition of a threatening event about to shatter the peace.
The subject matter of the artist is her anxiety of the unknown and its resulting helplessness. Beyond her own personal fear, it is also the DNA of the Israeli society that penetrates her soul, a society in trauma carrying a collective memory of never-ending traumatic events, feeding the anxiety and sustaining the constant sense of threat. These feelings reinforce the need for group support and lead to group cohesion. And indeed, the dominance of the group, its power relationships, the place of the individual in it, are all central themes in Dina Levy’s work.
The works in the exhibition deal with the concept of the group as a pack of animals. A pack implies rules, structure and hierarchy. Belonging to a pack is almost a verdict; its not necessarily a choice. The manner in which Dina Levy uses this image expresses her approach not only to her society but also to her artistic milieu. She has been a member of groups right from the beginning of her art career. She feels her identity is constructed by, and depends on, her place within the group, as is her ability to let go and act freely. The artist explores this dependency, aware of the support she receives, of its advantages, but also of the burden it lays.
The complex texture of wishes, hopes and anxieties existing in the artist’s soul express an inner contradiction between the desire for freedom on the one hand and the fear of loneliness and need to belong on the other. These conflicting forces are evident in all her works and are expressed in images taken from rituals, ceremonies, games and sports.
Dina Levy leads the spectator through a bulimic path that challenges his ability to experience each work freely and comfortably, separated from its environment; its group. The placing of the works in the exhibition inspires unease and is meant to intensify the feelings the artist wishes to express.
In the series Free Dina Levy expresses her fantasy to free herself from the group’s force of gravity. Each work displays a single figure that seemingly escaped gravity. The position of the figures appear free but helpless at the same time. They are held in a pose that is impossible without the support of the group. It is the very absence of the group that underscores its importance.
The spinning and whirling, the fantasy of flying, and being released from the group’s force of gravity - appear also in the installation Airtime. By drawing on transparent film, the artist displays a group that is oscillating between struggle and collaboration. Above them black figures - humans or birds – hover above, trying to distance themselves from it. High above it, figures fly-float-dance around a very long pole; a kind of spine or anchor that keeps them airborne but also grounded. In control. This element echoes the Maya bird-human rituals.
As part of her engagement with the subjects of control, rules, and groups, Dina Levy is interested in rituals and ceremonies that strengthen the group identity and often help coping with the unexpected and uncontrollable. The installation includes a projection of a short video loop, suggesting news reports, in which the same short scene repeats again and again, amplifying the sense of anxiety. The installation is accompanied by sound taken from the world of a lone gamer sitting in his room and playing a dramatic role as part of virtual global group.
In the work Cranes, the aesthetics is of calamity. The meeting of material with content is central to Dina Levy’s work, as is the tension between background and image. In this work the figures appear to be engaged in a sports activity having their faces masked. The Artist uses images from the world of sports in order to bring to mind everyday concepts like: cooperation, collaboration, competition and winning.
In the work Spinning, Dina Levy expresses her longing for complete freedom along with her fear to lose control. The spinning on the spot symbolizes for her a connection to a spiritual world and internal attentiveness, if only she could dare. The figures, that appear to be moving in an impossible circle, are in fact the same figure at different times. The artist describes a motion in space and time of a single figure that itself becomes a group.
In the installation Shelves the artist chose cranes to represent the concept of floating and being grounded at the same time. Cranes are dominant in Dina Levy’s day to day urban landscape. They materialize in groups and for her they are a pack. The crane is also a force multiplier, much like a group that is more than the sum of its parts. For Dina Levy cranes trigger a sense of wonderment because of their size, their height, and the way they dwarf man – but they are also threatening and a source of anxiety. Another image in this installation is the snake, bringing to mind the Expulsion from Eden. Man’s choice to taste the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge is his first act of free will and it brought on loneliness and helplessness. The conflict between the desire for freedom and the fear of loneliness surfaces again.
Studying Dina Levy’s works over time demonstrates a process of change and personal empowerment: Starting with the sense of helplessness in the series Free, on to the struggle and longing for freedom in Airtime, Shelves and Cranes, and finally in the profound inner observation in the work Spinning.
© Dina Levy