The Flomenhaft Gallery is very proud to present Builder Levy’s exhibit, entitled Developing Nations. Included are thirty-eight black and white individually produced limited edition gold-toned gelatin silver print photographs. The nations represented in this exhibit are Bolivia, Brazil, Cuba, India, Mexico, Mongolia, Tanzania, Venezuela and South Africa. Because of Levy’s special aesthetic sensibility, his work must be considered art in the unique way he bears societal witness and creates awareness of the varied nations he visits. In every work he looks with an artist’s eye with decisive composition and exquisite printing. He photographs like a painter. Whether focusing on a spectacular, majestic or rugged landscape he invariably finds its essences, the individual qualities of each place. His sophisticated candid portraits of people and animals, both still and in motion, always reveal some special aspect of the life in that country or of its natural phenomena.
For Levy, Developing Nations is a continuing work in progress. He says, “It is a my way of paying homage to the people, flora, fauna and ecology of our planet that need to be respected and protected in order to sustain all mankind and all life on the planet. It is also about the love of making photographs, the pleasure of discovering hardscrabble beauty, and a joir de vivre.”
Levy continues, “With the help of the Mongol Ambassador to the United Nations, I planned and executed a month-long visit to Mongolia in 1992. Then with the help of the director of Ulan Bator TV and his family, who I met in New York City in 1994, I made another visit to Mongolia in 1997. Through my photography, I hoped to explore the life of this Central Asian steppe people, once disparate tribes of herdsmen and their families, united into the Mongol nation by Chinggis Khan in the 13th century.
At the beginning of the twenty-first century, I continued my trips to developing nations where I explored the social as well as natural landscapes. I have been to the Bolivian highlands outside Cochabamba with the morning fog rising, the Andes Mountains merging into the clouds while in the foothills below sit the small indigenous family farms. I visited Brazil twice, Cuba, Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands, Mexico, South Africa, and the rural agricultural villages in northern India. In Las Claritas, Venezuela, I visited a small open-pit gold mine that the government was trying to close down because its mining method poisoned the ground water. Recently, on the Serengeti, in Tanzania, I witnessed in amazement the migrating wildebeests and zebras, racing in wild profusion.”
Builder Levy was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (’08), an Alicia Patterson Foundation Fellowship (‘04), a Furthermore Grant (‘03), Puffin Foundation Grant (‘01), and National Endowment for the Arts Visual Artists Fellowship in Photography (‘82). He received commissions from the Appalachian College Association (’95 and ‘02). Levy’s two books are Images of Appalachian Coalfields, Temple Univ. Press, with a foreword by Cornell Capa, and Builder Levy Photographer, A.R.T. Press, with an introduction by noted photo historian Naomi Rosenblum.
The High Museum of Art included Levy’s photographs in the exhibition, Road to Freedom: Photographs of the Civil Rights Movement, 1956-1968 (and the accompanying eponymous book/catalogue), organized by the curator Julian Cox. The show opened at the High Museum of Art in 2008, then traveled for two years to museums in D.C., Chicago, Los Angeles and New York City. The Rubin Museum of Art in NYC featured 14 of Levy’s photographs in the show Mongolia: Beyond Chinggis Khan, 11/06-4/07.
Levy’s work is in more than 50 public collections in the US and around the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art Watson Library, Brooklyn Museum, High Museum of Art, International Center of Photography, Victoria and Albert Museum, and La Bibliotheque Nationale.