Dan Levenson has created a fictional and immersive narrative about a community of Swiss artists at the now-defunct State Art Academy, Zrich (SKZ). This is a long-term multidisciplinary project which explores a range of questions about the making of art and artists. It begins with a fictional narrative about an art gallery called Little Switzerland.
By Efi Michalarou
Photo: Praz-Delavallade Gallery Archive
This gallery was founded in the mid-‘90s by an idealistic group of recent graduates from the State Art Academy Zurich. “I use Switzerland as a metaphor for the society in which artists live. Little Switzerland is allegorical so I treat both time and place with a great deal of license”. Part of this project is Dan Levenson’s solo exhibition “SKZ Forms and Color Studies” at Praz-Delavallade Gallery in Paris. The paintings represent the results of a composition exercise assigned to one class of students. The paintings appear to have suffered from time and neglect, their surfaces are cracked and discolored. “The project is centered on painting. It allows me to experiment with the ways in which framing, context and presentation can affect a work of art. I also explore the ways in which paintings are affected by the stories surrounding them. It is important to me that the viewer be aware that the stories I tell are fictions. Little Switzerland is never meant to be a hoax. A hoax collapses back into the duality of true/false in the instant that it is uncovered”. Levenson’s project balances humor, critique, and a fascination with the philosophy of twentieth century institutions such as the Bauhaus. At the center of the project are paintings that represent the foundation exercises completed by the forgotten art students of the academy. Each painting is signed on the back by an otherwise anonymous Swiss art student. The names never repeat and nothing else is known about the students’ individual biographies. These assignments are remnants of a generic modernist past when art education prioritized formal and technical concerns over subjective expression. In “SKZ Student Painting Storage Box Number 964” (2018) traces of the lost culture of the art school abound, particularly in Levenson’s use of standardized international sizes (42 x 28 cm), which dictate the scale and composition of every painting and object he produces. Each painting fits inside a storage box recovered from the ruins of the art school.
Info: Praz-Delavallade Gallery, 5 Rue des Haudriettes, Paris, Duration 27/1-24/2/18, Days & Hours: Tue-Sat 11:00-19:00, www.praz-delavallade.com