November 21, 2012

The work of David Haxton is featured in a new solo exhibition at Gavlak Gallery in Palm Beach. David Haxton: Selected Films and Videos, 1970 – 2012 is on display through December 12 with an opening reception on November 24.

In the early 1970s, Haxton began making 16 mm films in his San Diego studio that experimented with ideas of light and space by utilizing the materials and the mechanisms of the medium itself. Using studio lights, seamless backdrop paper, clamps, wires, cords and other stock tools germane to commercial photography, Haxton embarked on a practice of documenting a fabricated, sculptural, and at times, a painterly mis-en-scene that owes much to the art-historic experimentations of Man Ray and Maholy-Nagy, as to a Giotto Annunciation painting and Picasso’s cubism.

Over the past four decades, the rich expressiveness of Haxton’s photographs, which evoke the haunting, romantic qualities of a Turner seascape, have been compared to the spiritual nature of Rothko’s painted orange, red, yellow and blue squares that float and seem to vibrate on the canvas. Haxton’s rigorous dedication to the formal concerns of creating a frame for cut out squares, slits and slices through seamless paper is reminiscent of Dada artists, Jean Arp and Kurt Schwitters.

In addition to his unique 5″ x 7″ and 20″ x 27″ Polaroids, “Filming Stills” and photographs that are described above, the exhibition will feature three 16-mm films (transferred to video). Like the vintage photographs featured in this exhibition, these three films were originally shown at Sonnabend gallery, and were produced as part of the historic Castelli-Sonnabend Tapes and Films. This initiative on the part of Leo Castelli and Ileana Sonnabend was intended to encourage the exploration of film and video for the Post-Minimalist generation of artists such as Bruce Nauman, Ed Ruscha, Yvonne Rainer, Joan Jonas, Robert Smithson and William Wegman.

Jonas Mekas wrote in the Village Voice in 1974 after viewing five of Haxton’s films at Sonnabend (including two currently on view at Gavlak Gallery), “All five include paper cutouts, taping and lights — the most inventive exploration of negative-positive possibilities and illusions that I’ve seen in film.”