Interview: Rebecca Leveille's Solo Exhibit "The End of Love"

May 04, 2018 12:00 PM

Certain artists have captured the zeitgeist of a particular time and place in such a powerful way that history will forever be represented through their images. Goya and the French Revolution. Diego Rivera and Industrialization. Jacob Lawrence and the Great Migration. Georgia O’Keeffe and the Sexual Revolution. In the present day, as far as the #metoo movement is concerned, I implore you to consider the work of Rebecca Leveille. Her latest collection “The End of Love” is on view at Untitled Space in Manhattan until the middle of May. It is a commanding exploration of sexuality, power, mythology and gender in contemporary culture. Her images more than speak for themselves, but she took a moment to share some words with TWELV about her life and work.

Congratulations on your new collection “The End of Love.” It is so visceral and powerful and sexy! Your previous body of work, “Crush” deals with societal ideals and the arbitrary nature of love, and“The End of Love” addresses the nature of sex and myth in contemporary culture. Was your work influenced by the #metoo movement and the great reckoning that is happening in Hollywood and beyond? Or were you more inspired by personal experience or larger abstract ideas? 

Much in the "Crush" show was a direct result of the incandescent rage I was feeling about the acceptance of sexual assault and mistreatment of women in society– including the damaging idols and images we digest (and love/hate). I dealt with my own past of sexual assault as a teenager in that show very directly. When the #metoo movement happened 6 months later, I was somehow not surprised because something was boiling up in me and, of course, everyone else.In the new work, I'm taking a different perspective on my intention toward a feminist powerful dialogue. 

Some of the pieces in the collection seem to cite classic paintings, interpreted in a totally new way, but using the references as a device. The purple haired nude male with the raven haired woman, for example makes me think of Botticelli’s Venus and Mars. Was this an intentional aspect of your composition? 

I'm very much dealing with the question of female desire– the validity of it and the symbols of it. All of art history has been, very frequently, the reflection of male desire. I aim to direct the gaze to the other side– in an overt way and deliberately. The tools I employ to deliver my intention in the work are influenced by all of those prior works in art history, again, deliberately.

One of the trademarks of your work is your lush use of pigments with different densities, from oils to washes to graphite powder. What was your process of becoming fluent with these materials and connecting them with different emotional states? 

It's the part of me that recognizes the essential importance of the material surface. It's vital to me that not just the image itself be visceral but the material treatment as well. 

For many years, you were internationally recognized as an illustrator. Why did you decide to change course a few years ago to focus on painting?

Illustration is a collaboration with other people to get a final outcome. The artist generally has to make concessions to the nature of the work before the painting is finished because of input from the team involved (writer, editor, art director, etc). I realized about 12 years ago, when I was already very well known there, that I didn't actually want to hang any of the work I had done in my own house. I realized that the collaboration process took parts of the piece away from me in the work, even if it's just a small change made here or there, and always made it into something that in the end, I perhaps liked but was no longer in love with. I know for a fact that there is brilliant work done within this collaboration in illustration, but I didn't feel I was making brilliant work. I was making good work. Also this is not to say that fans and people I did the work for didn't like it– they very much did– and I'm happy they did (for a long time making other people happy was enough validation for me), but finally it became clear that I either had to start the change in me and my work or something important in my artistic self might be sacrificed and I might not get it back. It took 6 years of painting personal pieces in between client work to build up the sales of my personal work to take the place of what I earned in publishing. And then another 6 years– I left publishing 6 years ago– to set myself on a path and develop a relationship with galleries first regionally and then in LA and NYC that were going to be places that could show the work I wanted to make. Going from being someone to being no one and climbing up from there again has been both epically hard and also one of the best times in my life. 

How do you think your background in illustration impacted your technique as a painter? 

I'm extremely facile and very skilled with the figure. It's fortunate that I also love the figure. I started in comics as a penciler for D.C Comics / Vertigo and you have to draw 24 pages a month with approximately 6 panels a page with figures from every angle and every viewpoint. After 2 years of pencilling, that's 3,456 times you've had to draw the figure or multiple figures (and rooms, cars, building, animals) largely from your head, so I've got a fierce fucking visual memory, if I'm allowed to say that about myself without sounding like an asshole! Unfortunately all that skill and $3.75 will get you a cup of coffee (or rather a tall cold brew) in the art world. No one will reward you here for your skill alone.

Your exhibits often have a narrative subtext. Do you start out with a concept and build the body of work around it or is it more of a random evolution? 

My work is very much a reflection of my emotion state in the time the body of work is being done. One piece usually leads into the next. My images find me when I'm working. 

When you are painting does it ever creep into your mind that your work will be subject to the whims of collectors and curators? Do you think about how you want your audience to receive the work?

My work sells well, but second guessing or aiming for a sale or approval from a curator is not good for anyone. I've had had a very famous crit tell me recently to eliminate narrative. They are someone I respect and it’s very hard to make sure you don't give over important parts of yourself for a perceived chance of approval by someone you respect. And as soon as you think about the buyer or the sale, you risk the nature of the work suffering. It's the same thing that interfered with my connection to my own work with commercial illustration– this influence of the marketability of a piece to a wide audience– and that’s why I left. It's also why I never take private commissions anymore. In the end, we only have what we are most in love with to distinguish our work from the mass of other artist's work out there. Anything that undermines your own internal conviction about the things you are making makes you less likely to advocate for your own work with the kind of heart and veracity that is essential to success.


“The End of Love” by Rebecca Leveille is on display from May 2nd to May 13th, 2018 in Tribeca at the Untitled Space, 45 Lispenard St, #1W. 







related posts


Since its beginnings in 1885, the Detroit Institute of Arts has grown to encompass multiple mediums of art, including American, European, Modern and Contemporary, and Graphic Art.

June 27, 2014 4:06 PM  |  Art / Culture


The Museum of Modern Art just announced that it will be doing a full retrospective exhibition of the artist Björk’s work in 2015.

June 23, 2014 6:17 PM  |  Art / Culture


He kept on apologizing when I was on my way to come see his apartment for the first time. 'I'm sorry. My room is such a mess don't look at it, okay?'.

June 09, 2014 4:49 PM  |  Art / Culture


On display in Brooklyn’s BUSHWICS Studio, “When Skies Become Grounds” offers negative prints of iconic landscapes.

June 04, 2014 5:05 PM  |  Art / Culture
Maria Lassnig, Der Tod und das Mädchen (Death and the Girl), 1999, Courtesy Friedrich Petzel Gallery


Austrian artist MARIA LASSNIG exhibition at MoMA's PS1 has been attracting herds of people as she focuses her art around "body-awareness." Known for being the first to employ this theory, it...

May 30, 2014 1:38 PM  |  Art / Culture


The corner of Madison Avenue and 77th Street is the home to the MARK HOTEL: one of New York’s most prestigious hotels, housed in a beautiful 1927 landmark buildings on the Upper East Side.

May 22, 2014 6:00 PM  |  Art / Culture


Last Thursday, May 14th, legendary Tunisian fashion designer AZZEDINE ALAÏA hosted an event at his art gallery celebrating Italian architect and designer ETTORE SOTTSASS' (1917-2007) comprehensive...

May 21, 2014 2:30 PM  |  Art / Culture
The Queen, Katherine Crockett; Photo by Matteo Prandoli for BFA

Queen Of The Night Casts Its Spell

At Queen of the Night, inhibitions drown in sudden dalliances. Upon entering the Diamond Horseshoe, a spell is cast as you descend the staircase.

March 03, 2014 2:10 PM  |  Art / Culture
Photo courtesy of Chama

Twelv Things We Learned at Super Bowl XLVIII

1. When you look good, you play good. The Seattle Seahawks dominated Super Bowl XLVIII in a lopsided 43-8 win over the Denver Broncos.

February 04, 2014 11:50 AM  |  Art / Culture


Super Bowl weekend has arrived and TWELV Magazine is collaborating with WTRMLN WTR for their pop-up store Saturday evening, February 1, from 7:00p.m. – 11:00 p.m. 

January 31, 2014 5:39 PM  |  Art / Culture
Art from Galleries in Wynwood, Photograph by Sarah Granetz


TWELV knew we couldn’t leave Art Basel without exploring the up-and-coming area of Wynwood, Miami.

December 10, 2013 12:58 PM  |  Art / Culture
"League," William de Koonig, 1964, Photograph by Sarah Granetz


For our third day at Art Basel, we figured it was time to visit Miami’s Convention Center where the majority of galleries were represented.

December 09, 2013 9:32 AM  |  Art / Culture
Brunch at The Webster Hotel, Photograph by Sarah Granetz


On TWELV’s second day at Art Basel, we brunched at The Webster Hotel for Oliver People’s presentation of Dennis Hopper’s iconic photographs.

December 07, 2013 1:12 PM  |  Art / Culture
Colette's Art Drive-Thru by Alchemist, Photograph by Sarah Granetz


Art Basel has been taking over Miami Beach since 2002 with its extravagant exhibitions and events, making it a go-to destination for art and culture lovers everywhere.

December 05, 2013 4:29 PM  |  Art / Culture
DJ Brendan Fallis : Image Courtesy BFA

2013 Metropolitan Museum of Art Apollo Circle Benefit

Last Thursday night, the bright young things of New York City ascended the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the 10th annual Apollo Circle Fund for Art Conservation Benefit.

November 19, 2013 5:07 PM  |  Art / Culture
Photo courtesy of Tina Wong Photography

Parnell Jones is Ninja

Here is a story of transformation, of a man born and bred in Harlem, who spent nights sleeping on park benches, who lost best friends through brutal violence but still persevered to become an...

November 19, 2013 2:51 PM  |  Art / Culture


W New York hosts a unique VIP pop-up casino experience from November 15-17 in collaboration with acclaimed visual artist Desi Santiago.

November 14, 2013 2:31 PM  |  Art / Culture
Ann Dexter Jones, Abdullah Qandeel: Image Courtesy of BFA

Open Versus Closed

Born in Saudi Arabia, educated in the United Kingdom, and now residing and working in New York City, 25 year old artist Abdullah Qandeel has burst onto the Manhattan art scene with his...

November 05, 2013 4:52 PM  |  Art / Culture
Aldo Sohm and Eric Ripert during the Live Auction, Photo Courtesy of City Harvest


Last week, City Harvest held its annual "Bid Against Hunger" event at the Metropolitan Pavilion in New York City.

October 25, 2013 1:27 PM  |  Art / Culture
Photo courtesy of Miguel Dominguez for NYCCulture/Style.Blogspot


“The innate energy to create - call it Zen”, Carter Smith explains as he folds up one of his large wall-size silk pieces dyed in black, a rich shade of olive, and every tone in between.

October 24, 2013 4:24 PM  |  Art / Culture
12th & C, 2010 etched acrylic on window pane, 36x40", $10,000

Below 14th Street by The Black Soft


September 18, 2013 2:57 PM  |  Art / Culture
Photo courtesy of Wataru Bob Shimosato of

Eri Wakiyama debuts ‘I see you’ exhibition with a tiny voice and a large crowd

Eri Wakiyama debuts her exhibition of illustrations that can only be described as quietly seductive. 

August 27, 2013 2:33 PM  |  Art / Culture
Photo By: Craig Giambrone


It’s hard to imagine putting the words elegant and graffiti in the same sentence, but there’s truly no other way to describe the recent mural installation done outside the highly...

August 22, 2013 2:35 PM  |  Art / Culture


Futo Akiyoshi applies the feuding emotions between want and need, domestic and workplace to his current exhibition A Faithful Antinomy on display at Longhouse Projects in Hudson Square....

August 01, 2013 12:35 PM  |  Art / Culture


Healthy, gorgeous, and fun, the Japanese culinary art of Kyaraben is sure to attract the more artistic foodies among us.

June 10, 2013 1:18 PM  |  Art / Culture
Roman Yee

Antagonist Movement

New York City can be a harsh reality for a 20-something with big dreams and a small bank account.

June 06, 2013 10:35 AM  |  Art / Culture
Photo by Tasha Tongpreecha

ROCK|THEM Blings the Lower East Side

ROX Gallery, an uber chic addition to LES art scene, held the ROCK|THEM opening reception on May 29, 2013.

June 05, 2013 1:49 PM  |  Art / Culture
Randy Mulder, Photograph by Roman Yee


On Friday May 31, 2013, Village Playback Theatre hosted its Spring Gala at Lincoln Center to honor its patrons, actors, colleagues, and clients with cocktails, a live auction, and an...

June 03, 2013 12:58 PM  |  Art / Culture
Mia Baxter, Far Out Far West, 20" x 20", 2012

UNICEF’s Next Generation Photo Benefit

On May 17, UNICEF hosted its 4th annual Next Generation Photo Benefit at the Milk Gallery presented by Serenity Pharmaceuticals.

May 20, 2013 3:54 PM  |  Art / Culture
Christo Vladimirov Javacheff

National Academy Museum Honors Christo Vladimirov Javacheff

The National Academy, which describes itself as “a lively community of artists, architects, educators, students, museum-goers, and those dedicated to the arts in America,” honored installation...

May 20, 2013 1:16 PM  |  Art / Culture
Photo by Tasha Tongpreecha


This week, Frieze Art Fair came back to New York to bring together 180 of the best international galleries for what The New York Times called a “hugely successful contemporary art extravaganza” on...

May 14, 2013 11:36 AM  |  Art / Culture
Photo by Guillaume Roemaet of Co-Founders Vivian Brodie and Dylan Brant

Y & S: Incubator for Young Artists

A foot in the door. That is what Y&S promises.

April 18, 2013 5:18 PM  |  Art / Culture
Surprise Guest John Legend and chef Eric Ripert

Practical Magic at City Harvest

Last night, City Harvest hosted their annual gala honoring Chef Marc Murphy, "An Evening of Practical Magic".

April 17, 2013 9:54 PM  |  Art / Culture
Hosts Ian Gerard & Nicole Nadeau

Serge Strosberg's Agalmatophilia Opening

Wednesday night tastemakers from the art, style, and fashion worlds met to celebrate Strosberg's latest works, the Agalmatophilia collection. Syndicate 5 produced the opening reception for...

March 28, 2013 2:14 AM  |  Art / Culture
Sleeping Idol, oil and egg tempera on canvas

Serge Strosberg at the MAve Hotel

After successful exhibitions abroad, the formally trained Belgium artist, Serge Strosberg settled in Soho in 2008.

March 25, 2013 12:00 AM  |  Art / Culture

Tony Custer: Flavors of Charity

Although Tony Custer has received no formal culinary training, the cook, author, and editor says, “A year stage working in Paris, between college and business...

March 20, 2013 7:33 PM  |  Art / Culture


SITE BY: monocomplex©Marbles & Marbles International Inc. Drupal Development by: DivDiv, NYC
▲ back to top ▲