Regarded as the founder of Media Art, New York based, Irish artist Les Levine has donated to IMMA three series of etching and photographic works made in the 1970s. In the works, he mixes text and image to reinforce his belief that social and political problems are valid concerns for art.
Two of the groups are entitled The Troubles: An Artist’s Document of Ulster, 1972. Speaking of the photographic suite of 60 works Levine says of the photographs in The Troubles executed in 1972, “The piece is extremely colourful. It deals with every aspect of the situation. It goes into Catholic homes, Protestant homes, churches, funerals, explosions…My approach was to take it from the human point of view, not the political. So in all cases, I tried to show the people involved and to evoke some state of mind that they were representing in the photo. I avoided taking sides or showing bias. I think the photos speak for themselves and tell their own extraordinary story.” The third work Using the Camera as a Club, 1979, includes seven etchings that are intended to subvert the media’s characteristic mass communication strategies by counteracting them with powerful alternative visions.
Les Levine was born in Dublin in 1935. 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 has been explored through various means including painting, sculpture, installation, performance work, mail art and artists’ books. Moving to New York in the 1960s, he 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 called the Museum of Mott Art, Inc. He regards himself as a media sculptor, “mould(ing) media the way others would mould matter.” In the 1960s, Levine was one of the first artists to work with video and television. 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. Since the 1980s Levine has become particularly recognised for his billboard works in which he subverts the language of mass advertising to interrogate social and political problems.