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Levitator Abstraction

Esphyr Slobodkina, American (born Russia), 1908–2002
Oil on Masonite
Made in
Great Neck, New York, United States, North and Central America
Current Location
On View, Gallery 333
24 × 45 1/2 in. (61 × 115.6 cm)
framed: 24 3/4 × 46 1/2 in. (62.9 × 118.1 cm)
Credit Line
The Linda and Harvey Saligman Endowed Acquisition Fund; Gift of J. Harold Pettus, Gift of Edward J. Costigan in memory of his wife, Sara Guth Costigan, Gift of August A. Busch Jr., Gift of the Estate of Moses Soyer, Gift of Mrs. Richard Meade in memory of her husband, Richard Worsam Meade IV, and Gift of Stuart M. Chambers, all by exchange
Courtesy of the Slobodkina Foundation
Object Number
A cockpit and wings slowly emerge from the array of angular, abstract shapes in “Levitator Abstraction.” This painting was inspired by the Turboprop Skyshark, a short-lived Navy aircraft carrier bomber designed in the early 1950s. The complex interlocking forms in this work reflect a debt to the artist’s early training in engineering and architecture. However, at times they appear more like a busy scattering of paper cutouts than the volumetric parts of an airplane. This is not surprising given Esphyr Slobodkina was also an experienced dressmaker. Despite the machinelike quality, the painting playfully mimics the proportions and wood-grain surface of the actual drafting board on which she worked. Slobodkina’s creative talents extended beyond painting, dressmaking, and architecture. She was also a well-respected textile designer and children’s book author and illustrator. Her most-loved book is the classic “Caps for Sale.”
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