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Victory the Celebration, 1992, Robert Levers

Robert L. Levers Jr. (American, 1930-1992) was a painter and printmaker and had a distinguished thirty-year career as an art professor at the University of Texas in Austin. He is known for his satirical takes on political subjects and unique figurative style. He was a student of ancient Mexican art as well as European Renaissance art and had a special affinity for expressing the anatomical features of human figures. Levers was also a fervent critic of the US military-industrial complex and his work often comments on corrupt politicians and political agendas. Beginning with Vietnam and continuing through Operation Desert Storm, Levers expressed the insanity of war in various media. Levers first worked with Flatbed Press in 1990 and returned in early 1991 to create his graphic masterpiece “Victory: The Celebration”.

“Victory: The Celebration” is a soft-ground etching and drypoint that would be the last printmaking project before Levers’ death in 1992. This dark and satirical image was created in the wake of Operation Desert Storm and depicts three uniformed skeletal figures facing a uniformed man, with each figure attached to puppet strings. The three skeletons on the left are being led by the figure on the right, a bandmaster in this musical “celebration”. Distant smoke from oil well fires can be seen behind the figures. Levers labored considerably during the print production, proofing extensively and working with Flatbed’s Katherine Brimberry in developing the sizeable 36-by-48-inch plate. “Victory: The Celebration” combines Levers’ dark social critique with his playful humor. This poignant juxtaposition combined with Levers’ exceptional artistry creates a deeply impactful image that is considered one of Levers’ most iconic works.

Isabelle Burnett, 2023

Courtesy of Flatbed Press and Gallery, Austin, Texas