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Overview

Les Levine was born in Dublin in 1935. At the age of eight he met the Irish painter Jack B. Yeats and remained friends with him until his death. He studied at the Central School of Arts and Crafts, London, before moving to Toronto in 1958, where he continued his studies at the New School of Art. Levine’s artistic practice incorporates various means including painting, sculpture, installation, performance work, mail art and artists’ books.

Moving to New York in the 1960s, Levine became a leading conceptual art figure, intersecting art and life in a variety of projects such as Levine’s Restaurant, 1969 and the conceptual museum he invented in 1970 The Museum of Mott Art, Inc. He also published a monthly magazine in 1969 Culture Hero. In the 1960s, Levine was one of the first artists to work with video and television. His first video tapes were produced in 1964. His work was to become a precursor to the new generation of experimental artists who were exploring the possibilities of the moving image including Dan Graham, Gary Hill and Bruce Nauman.

During his prolific career Levine has produced major series of works about the manifold effects and functions of the media and information systems. Since 1976 he has produced many major media campaigns throughout North America, Europe and Australia. For these works, in many cases he has used billboards in which he subverts the language of mass advertising to interrogate social and political anxieties. In most cases these billboard campaigns operate throughout an entire city virtually turning that entire city into a media sculpture. His billboard campaign, entitled Blame God, shown as part of IMMA’s From Beyond the Pale season of exhibitions in 1994, attracted huge public attention.

In 2004 Les Levine edited/curated Printed Project 04 in an issue entitled The Self Express. This presented a multi-faceted portrait of the artist conducted by 15 different interviewers. The title comes from the idea that all art is a form of self-expression. The Self Express interviews could be seen as mental portraits of the interviewers.

Among his major exhibitions are Slipcover, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada, 1966; Contact, Institute of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL, 1969; Language ÷ Emotion + Syntax = Message, Vancouver, BC, Canada, 1974; I Am Not Blind: An Information Environment About Unsighted People, Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo, NY, 1977; Public Mind: Les Levine Media Sculpture and Mass Ad Campaigns, Everson Museum, NY, 1990, and Art Can See, Galerie der Stadt, Stuttgart, 1997.

Solo exhibitions of Levine’s work include the Walker Art Centre, Minneapolis; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; Albright Knox Gallery, Buffalo; and the Vancouver Art Gallery. His work is part of many international collections including Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain, Strasbourg; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; the Netherlands Media Art Institute, Amsterdam; Centre Pompidou, Paris; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Philadelphia Museum of Art; The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA; The National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, Australia; The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Ludwig Museum, Köln, Germany. His ‘Mindful Media: Works from the 1970s’ was shown at IMMA in 2011.

Levine continues to live and work in New York.