Since 1972, David Levinthal has photographed dolls and toys in settings that force us to question their apparent innocence. While the surface of Levinthal's work appears glossy, ordered, and even beautiful, its content raises our most controversial subjects and speaks to our darkest histories. Confronting such difficult topics as racism and the Holocaust, the work challenges deep-seated stereotypes, national myths, and other culturally ingrained perceptions.
Levinthal has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation. He has also had one-person exhibitions at the International Center for Photography, New York, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., and other museums and galleries.
Like much of the Levinthal’s work, the photogravures in Uncle Tom’s Cabin are simultaneously lush and subtly chilling. Representing narrative episodes from Harriet Beecher Stowe’s famous novel, tin figurines are placed in dramatic relationships. Levinthal’s photography renders the silhouettes luminous, with shadows cast on a limited ground plane. Removed from the make-believe children’s games they might evoke, the figures occupy an other-worldly atmosphere. The images evoke the idealism of Stowe’s narrative, while at the same time presenting a contemporary critique of the novel. Instead of the picturesque innocence of the source material, Levinthal challenges the viewer to consider new realities.