Sign up for our free newsletter

TO MAR. 10

Plato (as all victims of freshman philosophy learn) hated art. An art object, according to the thinker, is twice-debased—an imitation of a physical object, which is, itself, an imitation of an ideal form. Surely, then, the old man would have been outraged by David Levinthal’s “The Wild West: 1986-2002″—photographs of toy cowboys and horses that are based on an idealized version of the Wild West as seen in the Hollywood of Johns Ford and Wayne. Levinthal has made a career of shooting toys as still-lifes, and many images in the Wild West series successfully make the leap to the surreal: Levinthal creates little psychological dramas, in which the viewer finds himself empathizing with the 3-inch figurines. In part, this is made possible by the toys themselves, which seem unusually detailed and well-proportioned for action figures. But Levinthal also swipes the vocabulary of Hollywood, most often creating exaggerated, parched desert scenes with fire-red skies, and sometimes the dark, murky cinematography of film noir, as in Wild West (pictured; annoyingly, all the pieces in the show are named Wild West). Sure, it’s all a little silly. But then so are the films on which it’s all based. “The Wild West: 1986-2002” is on view from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, Saturday, and Tuesday to Thursday; and from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, to Sunday, Mar. 10, at Conner Contemporary Art, 1730 Connecticut Ave. NW, 2nd Floor. Free. (202) 588-8750. (Jandos Rothstein)