Savannah Claudia Levin: God Ain’t Poor No More

Mar 22 - May 12, 2024

30 Orchard St, Gallery 1 & 2

Nocturne of a Bloodstone

Down tunnels cacophonous
With their own massivity
My little heels clank clanking
Over deadstill stairways,
Windeaten streets,
A few bodies of water…

I searched for us

Devout as a madman
Blinded in the heart of light
A solitary creature of the tides
Packing and unpacking with
The moon

I searched

I went to our burial,
This plot was the only earth
I've ever owned
I willed it to our unborn
Spirits tend the whole tiny property now

Was it enough?
You swore it was a wall
But i swore i seen a door

You heard no clank clanking,
Just the distant whine of a car backfire
Muffled in the rug of habit

I cannot know this
So I repeat it

You are a stranger now

—Savannah Claudia Levin


Harkawik is pleased to present God Ain’t Poor No More, the first New York solo exhibition of Savannah Claudia Levin. In ten new paintings, Levin ponders darkness and light, salvation and damnation, atrophy and viscosity, transgression and complicity. She uses surface texture as a compositional tool, building layers of contextual meaning into her rich, blackened pictures, creating an experience that foregrounds material intelligence and the parity between rote occupational labor and creative process over content and narrative construction. Levin's paintings are made via a process of relentless reworking; each has lived a life in multiple cities, witnessed acts of tenderness and callous indifference, been pulled from a rubbish heap, washed in the rain, walked on and survived to be worn down again. They speak a truth of their making, a language of her native New Orleans, and let us draw our own conclusions about the voracity of their claims, about drama and melodrama. The women of Levin's paintings give compulsorily, without limit, and seem to survive their depletion, if only barely so. Babies, beasts, ghouls and sprites are exploited for their iconographic potential, and are constantly navigating their own symbolism, lost in a menacing landscape of violent ends, and seeking moments of quiet redemption wherever they can be found.

In Mommy's Little Helper, a gaggle of wretched babies feed on a torrent of pharmaceuticals spewing forth like mother's milk. Levin combines multiple perspectives and moments in time to produce an image that encapsulates a range of contrary motion, like neighboring still frames from an old videocassette, conjoined in a smeary approximation of movement and gestural action. In Nocturne of a Bloodstone, a cascade of violent yellow light illuminates a two-headed dog, while a child, wearing one as a pelt, grasps wantonly at mother's nipples. In The Unspeakable Pursuit, another baby, this one rampaging indifferently, encounters a 1950's era housewife, who offers up what appears to be a skinned bird. Egrets, their necks craned or broken, populate The Door Opens Inward, a painting sutured together like an old paperback lovingly repaired, and bearing the phrase "All that is mine I carry with me" in blood red thread. Tuesday at Anna's, Levin's largest completed work to date, offers an escape from the polar swings of other works, in the form of a kind of purgatory: an inviting local haunt, familiar in its worn surfaces and resigned visages, offering the comfort of the familiar but no way out, no leg up. Heaven and hell lurk in the swirling surfaces of this bar of many vantage points, vignettes and incompatible perspectives, and when we've taken it all in, we're left with the messiness and arbitrariness of the small exchanges of power evident there-and the wonder, too.