JJ LEVINE: ALONE TIME/QUEER PORTRAITS
CURATED BY: ARIN FAY
JJ Levine’s photos turn the perceived objectivity of photography into the subject and subtext of his intimate scenes. We see the truth, a compounded truth, and the documentation of something significant, which has been the hallmark of photography since its inception in 1839. We see an overt and meaningful manipulation of a medium which has a storied history of staging and storytelling – from flag waving patriotism to the impossible idealization or “selling” of almost anything: shoes, sin, suffrage, subservience … The transaction here is an offering of authenticity.
The staging is significant, from peeling paint to opulent upholstery and cherubic tchotchkes. The same sort of amber hued Wes Anderson aesthetic and colour palette that help him tell his idiosyncratic stories is here utilized to illustrate a culture, community and individual identity. From the 1950’s Pyrex patterns in Oliver’s modern kitchen, to the saccharine cats beside the serious Cee, and the dishevelled surrender and conquest of Alone Time #14. Both Queer Portraits and Alone Time reflect the perfect complexity and imperfect perfection of people.
The sing-song sentimentality of the Grand coeur d’enfant super 8 film creates yet one more piece to the perspective puzzle. It is a seemingly discordant soundtrack to the sexuality and adult pondering and posturing on display, and yet it provides an underpinning of universality carried in the unconscious perfection of children at play. What is lost in the journey from childhood to adulthood is also what is gained, the cultural coercion to adopt and impose binary definitions of/on ourselves and others. The full spectrum is so much more beautiful!
The unblinking dialog between photographer and subject is trusting and complicit, the gaze reciprocal and reassuring, not imposed. This is no simple parlour trick but a means to illustrate a complicated truth that becomes less tangled in the telling. The importance of being seen, truly seen, is a universal desire, and the honesty and generosity in so doing is an astounding gift. These photos make me want to be brave and understand myself better. These photos, both collage and portraiture, make me grateful for the beautiful complexity of people and the power of art to let us see.
JJ Levine is a Montreal-based artist working in intimate portraiture. Levine is holds a Masters of Fine Arts in Photography from Concordia University. Mostly known for the series Queer Portraits, Alone Time, and Switch. Levine has been honoured with several awards and received grants from the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec and the Canada Council for the Arts. Levine’s work has been exhibited at galleries and art festivals across Canada, the United States, and Europe. As well Alone Time and Switch have been featured in art magazines, journals, and newspapers internationally. Levine’s artistic practice balances a radical agenda with a strong formal aesthetic.