On the eve of his first major London retrospective at Phillips, the international auction house’s new Berkeley Square HQ, New York artist and filmmaker Andrew Levitas talks life, death and losing his bearings around town.
Image © Ruth Ward
So Phillips approached me and asked if I would be the first solo artist to exhibit at its incredible new space. The show is more of a mini retrospective, starting with my flat panel metalwork photography. This is essentially a hybrid style fusing sculpture and photography on sheet metal to produce a beautiful reflective surface – and the exhibition is really an exploration of how it has developed over the last two decades.
The process is incredibly intricate but also fun and let’s me be a kid every day. What could be better than that! I think it’s unfortunate that we live in a world where we are so often asked to assign meaning to things and have that be the only meaning. The truth is, everything I create, whether a sculpture, a film or a photograph, always has my specific idea and reason for doing it. But that’s not necessarily what anyone else should see when they view it.
It’s just unfortunate now, that with the Internet giving so much information on what we create, people have become hesitant to look at a piece of work and make their own judgements. Certainly they will say if they think it’s good or bad but I mean in terms of what they think it’s about or how it makes them feel…
For me, it’s really important that people have an emotional response to each piece I make. Take ‘iTree’ for example. This three-dimensional geometric tree is made from a square, a rectangle, a circle and a triangle and plays with the notion that human beings are always trying to understand things and make them better.
It works on a number of different levels. Firstly, I wanted to create a tree that was better than nature, which of course is impossible, but ultimately I wanted it to say that if we’re not careful, this is the sort of thing you will see in parks and gardens in future.
These days I split my time between London, New York and LA. London is a remarkable city. It has such a great art community and so much work is shown here. I’m a fan of everybody, though Anselm Kiefer is probably my favourite artist. There’s a spectacular show currently on at the Royal Academy.
When I’m in London I do the exact same things as I would in New York; walk, see as much theatre as possible, visit museums and galleries. The only tricky thing with London is that I find it very hard to know where the heck I am! I’m always lost and spend a lot of time staring at Google Maps on my iPhone as I walk along. Manhattan is a lot more straightforward.
I’m always looking for imagery where people look at the same image in different ways. Take ‘Miss Predestinate 2014’ for example. This aluminium sculpture is extremely feminine thanks to its soft egg-shape and pale pink colouring. But look closer and you see it features photographs of skulls – Capuchin monks’s skulls. I took the photos in a crypt in Rome. It is one of the holier places where priests and popes have walked, and in many ways could be viewed as a gateway to the eternal. So for some, skulls represent life, even though I personally associate them with death.
The same imagery appears on ‘Panspermia 2014’, a comet-shaped 3D sculpture, which is really a metaphor for where life may come from and where life may end. The inky midnight blue colour naturally occurred when I was taking the photos. You have to know what you want and be specific in your choices and ideas but the best work always comes out of happy accidents!
Metalwork Photography®: A survey/Works by Andrew Levitas
Phillips 30 Berkeley Square London
28th October -11 November 2014