OCTOBER 20

In the mid- to late ’70s, the art scene got so bad that Chris Burden said he’d rather go shopping at the toy store than gallery hopping. In retrospect, it seems many of his colleagues agreed with him. When young artists rejected post-minimal asceticism and embraced the world, they faced the problem of making everything fit inside the gallery. The answer was to think small. Burden used toys in symbolic depictions of amassed military might, while Laurie Simmons drew links between small-scale interior design and the inner life. And what were Charles Simmonds’ painstakingly handcrafted brick miniatures but houses for imaginary dolls? David Levinthal is best known for ruddy photographic isolations of toy cowboys and Indians. However, for his more recent pictures, on display in “David Levinthal: Playing With History,” the artist has arranged complex tableaux using playsets manufactured by the Louis Marx Toy Co. from the ’40s to the ’70s. Levinthal’s use of shallow focus once provided nostalgic vignetting that suggested the wrongheaded romanticism of our national myths; now it announces a vision cognizant of the cloudy expanse of history but centered on the significant gesture. That’s a development roughly equivalent to the Byzantine iconicity yeilding to Giottoesque drama—writ small, of course. Levinthal gives a slide-talk, signs his book Small Wonder: Worlds in a Box, and is feted with a wine reception at 7:30 p.m. at the Corcoran Gallery of Art’s Hammer Auditorium, 17th & New York Ave. NW. $16. (202) 639-1770. (Glenn Dixon)