King Cuts: Mike Leavitt Flips the Script on Tarantino, Scorcese, Kubrick, and More

Like it or not, work sweeps over the life of the creator

All images are courtesy of Jonathan LeVine Gallery

Great moviemakers are eaten by their work. They’re gobbled up, willingly cannibalized by vision, story, budget—the every detail of their own making. It’s as if their own silhouettes are forever interrupted by those of the characters they have created.

For his third and latest solo show at Jonathan LeVine Gallery, Mike Leavitt sets his sights on—and shares kindred commitment with—such all-or-none storytellers consumed by their work. Working diligently in his garage, the Seattle-based artist has transformed some of the world’s greatest filmmakers into satirical sculptures. For King Cuts, Hitchcock, Tarantino, Kubrick, Scorsese, Coppola, Spike Lee, David Lynch, and other cinematic wizards find themselves at usual centerstage.

Leavitt has painstakingly hand-carved a totem to each auteur from a single block of wood, mashing-up their own physical attributes with features borrowed from their most iconic on-screen characters. Scorsese, with signature horn-rimmed glasses, stands arms outstretched a la Temptation of Christ, donning Travis Bickle’s quick-draw gun creations and Jack LaMotta’s boxing trunks (with the clever detail of “Fuck” emblazoned at the waist). Alfred Hitchcock is transformed—in this case, so accurately it’s frightening—into one of his own attacking birds. Standing 18 inches tall at one quarter inch scale, each tongue-in-cheek sculpture was molded much in the same way these filmmakers work—cut by cut, edit by edit.

Mike Leavitt King Cuts JLG Quentin TarantinoMike Leavitt King Cuts JLG Stanely Kubrick

“I love movies and I love art,” Leavitt explains. “The magic overwhelms me. Moviemakers are consumed by their work, similar to the way my own work overtakes my life. Whether a block of wood, a scene ending or film reel edit, every cut takes conviction. Directors endure pain tending to the light of photography, the story’s tension, the limits of money and the sacrifices to their vision. Trust in that vision is so powerful that they relinquish their anatomy. That’s why I sculpted their bodies physically devoured by their work.”

Watch Leavitt reveal his magic in the time-lapsed clip in the player above.

Mike Leavitt King Cuts JLG Steven Spielberg

King Cuts will be on view Saturday, May 14 through June 11 at Jonathan LeVine Gallery (529 West 20th Street).

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  • Margo Page

    Typical male artist celebrating men. Almost all of the women he has done are film characters or pop stars. Practically all of the carvings he does are of accomplished men.