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Commentary Judith Levy

Commentary Judith Levy

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Published by Blair Schulman
Review of one-woman show by Judith Levy this past fall.
Review of one-woman show by Judith Levy this past fall.

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Categories:Topics, Art & Design
Published by: Blair Schulman on Dec 15, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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The Lone Ranger: The Last DescendantsfromJudith G. LevyonVimeo.
Learning New Lessons from Fictional American History
Thousand Islands postcard (back)) sent to John Reid, The Lone Ranger, paper, 3-1/2 x 5-1/2".
Paragraph Gallery14 East 12th StreetKansas City
Judith G.Levy: The Last Descendants 
September 16, 2011-November 5, 2011By BLAIR SCHULMAN
 Ambitious and witty,
The Last Descendants 
is like sittingaround the holiday dining table with a favorite relative.The funny uncle who, after a bit too much wine, spinstales of the family history — their web so intricate, messyand wonderful, it’s impossible to figure out what’s trueand what isn’t. None of that matters anyway - you wantthem to go on because it’s still a great story. Judith Levytells tales that aren’t necessarily true or false. They arewhat you choose to accept, but all have a believabilitythat makes it pretty difficult to deny.An interdisciplinary artist, Levy gives us the full treatmentof three historical subjects with family trees and videointerviews. Hansel & Gretel, The Lone Ranger andHuckleberry Finn are iconic fictional characters well-known to most people and Levy invokes a familiarity intheir histories to make it appealing.These figures, whether intentionally or not, addressissues deeply rooted in the American mindset. These
White House paperweight (Gift to the Lone Ranger from President Theodore Roosevelt), glass with paperimage, 3" tall by 3-1/2" wide x 1-1/4" deep.Judith G. Levy,
Lone Ranger Family Tree 
include immigration, Manifest Destiny and racism. Theartist gradually eases us into seriousness through herstorytelling, presenting a very strong case for theirexistence.Levy broaches subjects long held taboo by certaingenerations, while others are certainly not shy aboutbeing up front about things that are just too obvious toignore. With her role as reporter, Levy’s family trees takeup entire walls, spanning centuries, nations and actualevents. The videos illuminate sibling rivalries, sexism andhomosexuality to subtly touch on the selective memorythat often occurs when family histories are passed downthrough the ages.Regardless of the pride or shame of their ancestors,viewers will see that each descendant has held onto afamily item. As Levy says, “Tangible objectsgive meaningto most of us. Through objects, value is irrelevant.” It is asource of pride to them, no matter how silly or mundane itmight appear. Whether it’s some pebbles, a clump of hairor singed fabric, provenance trumps all.Levy is deadpan when interviewing these ancestors,allowing their stories to be laid bare. Occasionally, shewill pry deeper, ensuring some well-hidden beliefs rise tothe surface. This dedication gives us an understandingthat one can see, feel and acknowledge these stories sostrongly that it must be true.For John Reid, aka The Lone Ranger, Levy puts carefullyselected artifacts on display, includinga paperweight fromhis good friend and former President, TheodoreRoosevelt. An elaborate ring given to Reid by hislongtime companion, Tonto, is a gift that strongly impliestheir friendship on the range went beyond just goodfriends. Near this display case is a book of carefullycollected postcards from up until the time Reid died onthe eve of World War I. In this era before telephoneseventually rendered letter writing obsolete, friends andrelations inquired about ones’ health, discussed plantingseason, trips taken and the weather. These cards are theoriginal text messages. They’re also chronologicallycorrect. We learn how and what it means to live inAmerica during these times. Levy makes us question itsfallacy with her meticulous attention to historicalaccuracy.The real melting pot of this country is brought to life whenyou take the time to examine the family trees. Politicalposturing aside, no one is of pure stock. Carefully plotted,Levy takes us from Turkey, Rotterdam, Frankfurt, Mexicoand China, all the way to New York, San Francisco,Kansas, Arizona and California. The genesis of apatriarchy cannot be denied. It is something every visitorto the Paragraph Gallery can grasp and relate to.Levy’s affinity for family history began with Hansel andGretel in Indianapolis (talk about melting pot!). Levy wasasked to contribute to an exhibition on the Germanbrother and sister several years back and decided toexpand from there. Her
Girls Brigade 
series from 2007takes the idea even further. A group of orphan Englishgirls in what we now know as Great Britain, during thefirst Roman Invasion of 55 B.C. responded to attacksnear the British Coast. About a dozen of these girls hadbeen in the service of a local Celtic clan and establishedthemselves into a children’s army. Levy created bannersand flags attributed to these brave children- someserious, others cheeky and installed them in Chicagoalleys and on walls, all in the context of blurred reality.For this exhibition, it’s difficult to say whether or not thesecharacters of the Brothers Grimm, Mark Twain, FranStriker and George W. Trendle are true, composites orcompletely fictional. Levy shows us, no matter what onemight think or believe, they provide a thread in the fabricof our nation spanning time, geography and a healthysuspension of disbelief.
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Thousand Islands postcard (front) sent to John Reid, The Lone Ranger, paper, 3-1/2 x 5-1/2".
Page 4of 5commentaryjudithlevy9/29/2011http://cupcakesinregalia.com/commentaryjudithlevy.html

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