Since the mid-1970s, David Levinthal’s large-scale photographs of toys and figurines have blurred the boundaries between fiction and reality. By arranging miniature soldiers, cowboys, Barbie, and other model-kit figures in lifelike ways, he encourages us to look for what is artificial and real in each scene. Our ability to recognize both elements allows us to consider the artwork’s deeper social meanings.
Always working in series, Levinthal's constructed photographs deal with disturbing or controversial subject matter: consequences of warfare, clashes on the American western frontier, concerns between men and women, or exploitations of female sexuality. His earliest series, for instance, makes us contemplate how disagreements about geographic borders lead to the loss of human life. Even seemingly brighter themes like romance maintain a thoughtful tone, as the artist freezes lovers in an eerie light reminiscent of paintings by Edward Hopper.
The Birmingham Museum of Art has a comprehensive collection of Levinthal’s work, with photographs from 10 series including Hitler Moves East, Modern Romance, The Wild West, XXX, and Baseball.