Three Americans in Postwar Paris

John Levee, September III, 1957 (courtesy Galerie 53)
John Levee, September III, 1957 (courtesy Galerie 53)

Joseph Nechvatal reviews the exhibition Trois Américains à Paris at Galerie 53 and Galerie Routes, Paris, on view through October 25, 2014. The show features works by John Levee, Joe Downing, John Franklin Koenig.

Nechvatal writes: "The first thing I noticed was that the work exemplifies how being outside of one’s own (American) system, yet not really within another (French) system, is tremendously liberating for an artist... Levee is a magnificent painter of force and guts and forthrightness. He exhibits a talent for gravitas here with strong gestures rendered in blacks and understated colors, as well as a penchant for impasto surfaces. Intense in passionate emotions, the painter’s muted hues have a deeply moving, arousing deportment... Downing’s surfaces... are much smoother and cooler than Levee’s, by which he achieves a delightful form of lyrical abstraction... The flowing surface of Koenig’s painting 'Le tombeau de Belial' (1960) has something of the unfathomable velvety quality of intimacy and hesitancy. It is subtly calibrated, suggesting doubt as well as strength, thus uncertainty through perhaps premeditated clumsiness. It allowed me to see the artist slowly make up his mind and then shift, like the sea."