Michael Leavitt

Empire Peaks

Gallery II
Solo Exhibition
11/23/2013 through 12/21/2013

NEW YORK, NY (October 12, 2013) — Jonathan LeVine Gallery is pleased to present Empire Peaks, new works by Seattle-based artist Michael Leavitt in what will be his second solo exhibition at the gallery. Empire Peaks continues Leavitt’s Art Army project, an ongoing series of figuratively representational sculptures that reference the likenesses of various icons including artists, politicians, celebrities and other culturally significant figures. Highly detailed and fully articulated with moving body parts, the works are a nostalgic satire of familiar childhood toys.

In this exhibition, Leavitt pairs the traits of his recognizable subjects with characters from Star Wars, juxtaposing the classic archetypal roles found in Yoda, Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader and the rest of the famed cast with pop-culture personas. Through these clever mash-ups, the artist explores themes of coveting mass-produced collectibles as well as idol worship throughout human history—examining the recurring patterns of our civilization and its shared compulsive needs for heroes and villains or rebels and tyrants, rising and falling or celebrated then overthrown, repeatedly over time.

Subjects include: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Nelson Mandela, Che Guevarra, Mohatma Ghandi, Steve Jobs, Donald Trump, Kim Jong Il, Sarah Palin, Hilary Clinton, Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Angelina Jolie, Michael Jackson and more.

In the artist’s words: “With Baby Boomer parents, GenXers nursed on commercial enterprises and bucolic, nuclear comforts. We learned to want cheap plastic objects and fed on our parents’ generational guilt. In a culture of learned consumerism, buying toys was our new medium of love. Empire Peaks fulfills the gluttony of a generation. Capitalism fills desire and demand. Culture, for better or worse, thrives under growth. From religious redemption to material objects, mass coveting is the driving force. Whether political, intellectual or cultural, figurehead stars guide the rise and fall of respective dynasties. Some empires begin with a protest or rebellion. Many are built by greed and ambition. These same forces cause empires to topple. Power corrupts. Rebellion becomes conformity. One empire falls. Another rises to repeat the mistakes of its predecessor. Antiquity replaces modernity and the cycle continues.”

About the artist

Michael Leavitt was born in 1977 in Seattle, Washington, where he is currently based. He studied at Pratt University in New York and Evergreen University in Washington State. His work has been exhibited by galleries in New York, Los Angeles, Seattle and London and featured in publications such as TimeOut New York, New York Magazine, The Huffington Post and ARTINFO.

Opening Photos