Gavlak Los Angeles has just opened Cut To: Paint and Film, a solo exhibition of recent and vintage works by David Haxton. The exhibition, which includes inkjet prints, C-prints, bronze sculpture, Polaroids, digitized 16mm films, and film stills, points to the importance of Haxton’s work in the history of conceptual practice. Extending from the late 1970s to today, this selection of work reaches beyond the limitations of medium to emphasize the slippage between painting, film, photography, pictorial space, and performative space.
Subtle light transitions appear in David Haxton’s photographs from one image to the next. Cream and White Form and Square Holes in White (2005) molds form and shadow with harsh lighting – it’s connotations of cinematic artifice revealing the art studio as stage. In No. 141, Shadows from Torn Magenta on White (1980) a soft Vermeer daylight streams in from what seems to be a window to the left. Light is scattered through the perforations cut into magenta photographic paper, and each cut offers a chance for light to play on surface and to reference the framing device and the self-reflexivity of photography. This all sounds quite intellectual, until we realize that the entire gesture is delicately balanced by poetry. Haxton’s careful recognition of light is seen as an essential poetic-perceptual force. The exhibition features Haxton’s Polaroids dated 1979/1980, each one like a miniature photo-gem.
A dialogue with the history of conceptual thinking in art is palpable in Haxton’s works. We witness the tension between surface and depth and the tension of the modernist struggle familiar through the push-pull theories of painting and surface put forth by the influential teacher Hans Hoffman, the entanglement between line and space so apparent in Robert Motherwell’s early open form paintings, and especially Lucio Fontana, whose Spatialism in the 1940s through the 1960s emphasized the puncturing of surface and the monochrome as a two dimensional membrane. David Haxton’s works bridge this history, continuing with the erasure of old distinctions between painting and photography and bringing in their wake new questions about the framed space and the space of illusion. These ideas have been recharged with new meaning today. A dose of the critical questioning of decades which David Haxton’s works provide is certainly called for today as the pixel, the frame, and the screen assume central positions in our lives. Haxton’s works as a whole activate perception, exposing perception as pliable and malleable, a choice that we make at will.
David Haxton was a Professor of Art for several decades and now concentrates on his artistic work. Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, Haxton studied Painting at the University of South Florida (BA) and the University of Michigan (MFA). Haxton made several film installations while teaching at San Diego State University in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. Moving from San Diego to New York City in 1972, he began making single screen films in a climate of avant-garde structural cinema. David Haxton’s film installation Three Changes was shown in New York at Sonnabend Gallery in 1974; a group exhibition with Vito Acconci, John Baldessari and David Shulman. He continued to show his films at Sonnabend each year until 1979, when he started showing his photographs in the N.Y.C. gallery. His first solo photographic exhibition was at Sonnabend Paris in 1978. Haxton had a solo exhibition of photographic diptychs at Sonnabend New York in 1979. He continued to show his photographic work at Sonnabend until the mid 1980’s. Two of David Haxton’s most recent group exhibitions include: Ileana Sonnabend Ambassador for the New, The Museum of Modern Art (2014), Watch This, The Smithsonian American Art Museum (2012). His most recent solo exhibition was at Gavlak, Palm Beach (2012). His work is in the permanent collections of The Museum of Modern Art, New York, The Whitney Museum of American Art, The Indianapolis Museum of Art, The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, The Smithsonian American Art Museum, The Art Institute of Chicago, The Albright Knox Gallery, The National Gallery of Art in Canberra, Australia, The Denver Museum of Art, and The Maslow Collection in Scranton, PA.
– Lisa Jaye Young