The Slasher

Photographer David Haxton Goes on a Tear


The photographer David Haxton conjures evocative, painterly realms from cut paper and studio work lights. With a show currently up at Fridman Gallery (169 Bowery, through May 19) we revisit a review of the now 75-year-old artist first published in 2009.

By R.C. Baker
February 3, 2009

The first thing I thought of when I saw David Haxton’s large-scale color photos of cut and slashed paper was Titian’s 1571 painting Tarquin and Lucretia, a brutal rape scene illustrating the ruthless politics of ancient Rome that’s filled with angular limbs, sweeping shadows, and lush, warm color. Haxton, a photography professor at the University of Central Florida, pushes the freshman exercise of photographing curled, cut, and folded sheets of paper into an evocative and dramatic realm. Now in his mid-sixties, he studied as a painter before turning to photography and film during the 1970s and ’80s, designing elaborate, if flimsy, sets of paper, cloth, and string. Swathes of colored backdrop paper form the subjects (such as they are) of these nine images, from 1980 to 2006, each with a deadpan title, such as No. 141, Shadows From Torn Magenta on White. The sheets are weighted by spring clamps, draped over strips of wood, and riven by rectangular openings; the creams and grays of No. 536 call to mind the irregular geometries of Le Corbusier’s architecture, the yellows, oranges, and aquas of No. 629 one of Hans Hofmann’s resplendent canvases. While such allusions come easily, these rough-and-ready compositions  — with their shards of light and layered shadows — ultimately move beyond the nuts and bolts of illusionistic space to create an emotional zone for the theater of your  mind.

Priska C. Juschka, 547 W 27th, January – February, 2009