In Dan Levenson’s new show, “SKZ Painting Storage,” the fading and cracking of his black-and-white abstract compositions suggested they were works of some age. On the back of each of these formal exercises is the signature of a different Swiss art student and—in the first clue to the artist’s concept for the show—a stamp that reads “State Art Academy Zurich, Student Painting 1997.” In fact, all of the canvases—some hanging on the wall, others tucked into racks in a back room—were the purported output of fictional students at a fictional art school.
The aesthetic indicators pointed to a late eruption of some hugely influential branch of modernism, inseparable from the philosophies of its early founders. Yet nothing resembling a manifesto was in evidence. Levenson thus isolates these images from the presumed ideologies from which they descend, while—in a nod to his own history—locating them in the same year Levenson himself earned his M.F.A.
Past projects by this artist have used the fictional academy and its students to explore how ideas about art are created and disseminated. Here, Levenson bridges the praxes of earlier art movements and the arguably corporative structures of art schools today, raising serious questions regarding an individual’s ability to be creative within academic, commercial, or collective structures.
A version of this story originally appeared in the December 2015 issue of ARTnews on page 91.