CHUCK LEVITAN: Ancient Wounds

How do we see an image? With the eye, the brain, or the spirit? Artists and lovers of art realize that visual perception is a complex process, which involves more than a mere biological stimulus-response, and shares a part of the total human mystery. The pencil drawings and prints by Chuck Levitan in his Gallery at 42 Grand Street expand this mystery into the dimension of the divine. The exhibit entitled ãShroud Afterimagesä, opening on Saturday, March 29  and continuing through April 23, is based upon the image of a crucified man imprinted upon an ancient shroud, reputed to be the Jesus Christ. This intriguing artifact has been the subject of intense research and speculation. However, for Levitan the concern for the authenticity of the shroud is less important than its psychological and spiritual power upon the viewer, and its inspiration for his own art.

Levitanâs drawings evoke a deep sense of the powerful, but elusive, spiritual energy of Christ. One must search for the images, as one search for the meaning of Jesus. The image is too faint to be reproduced photographically. The handsome buff Fabriano paper appears at first to be nearly blank, then one gradually begins to perceive the features of the face, see the flesh and marks of blood, which become symbolic configurations reminding one of a double helix, a Trinity, sperm or a Sigma of science. Each faces changes; the viewer is at times reflected in the glass and becomes a part of the features, enriching the meditation between the image and the eye. The shadow formed between the paper and the mat inside the simple wood frame enhances the mystery of these images, which move in and out of vision, as in and out of matter to spirit.                                                                                                                                                  

These delicate and gentle drawings hold and intense power which parallels the power of a man who was weak and insignificant, but yet transformed the world. Levitan, a Jew, has been fascinated with religious imagery for years. Here he probes the meaning of the Shroud and extends this visual image to a universal level. Christ becomes every man or woman who has suffered and transcends his suffering. Our ability to see and comprehend this work may relate to our own experience.                               

                                                                                                                                              - By John Taylor Basker