Erik Saxon: Select Works, 1973-2011

Erik Saxon, Untitled, 1973, MINUS SPACE

Erik Saxon, Untitled, 1973
Commercial Varathane paint and Rhoplex on canvas
24 x 40 inches

May 7 – June 11, 2011

MINUS SPACE is delighted to announce the exhibition Erik Saxon: Select Works, 1973-2011. This is the Manhattan-based painter’s first solo exhibition with the gallery. The exhibition will feature key works from seminal points in the artist’s oeuvre spanning the past forty years, including several never-before-seen grid, shaped, multi-panel, and monochrome paintings.

For the past four decades, Erik Saxon has produced rigorous abstract geometric work, including paintings, drawings, prints, and sculpture. Born and raised in San Francisco, California, Erik moved to New York in 1964, but returned to San Francisco in 1965 to earn his Masters degree. He permanently relocated to New York City in 1968. Between 1968-1973, he produced works that alternated between abstraction and abstract figuration. In 1973, he began exclusively making abstract work based on the grid format, initially using watercolor on paper and then industrial paint on raw canvas. One of Erik’s first abstract grid paintings, Untitled (1973, commercial Varathane paint and Rhoplex on canvas, 24 x 40 inches), will be included in the exhibition.

That same year Erik began experimenting with monochromatic works – a series of acrylic drawings consisting of white and off-white squares arranged into groups of three to five panels – but tabled the idea a year later focusing his attention instead on paintings organized around a nine square grid structure (3 rows x 3 columns). With the intention of exploring “all possible variations within the picture plane”, the new grid works contained lines, rectangular bars, and squares, as well as the three neutral (white, gray, black) and three primary colors (red, yellow, blue). The grid paintings Erik produced between 1974-1977 are a critical development and define his core concerns for the next three decades. The yellow, white, gray and raw canvas grid painting, Untitled (1975, acrylic, pencil and matte medium on canvas, 60 x 60 inches), will be on view in the exhibition.

In 1977, Erik returned to the idea of the monochrome. His first monochromes consisted of multiple square and/or rectangular panels joined together forming a single shaped painting. Several years later in 1982, he produced his first all-white painting, which was conceived as a fusion of “an interior white square with the picture plane of the painting”. Two key paintings from this five-year period, 4.W.S.1.OFF.W.R./D.CROSS_O/M_78-79 (1978-79, oil on masonite, 35 1/4 x 35 1/4 inches) and W.S.#2-6_O/L_82-3 (1982-83, oil on canvas, 24 x 24 inches), will be included at the gallery.

For the past thirty years, Erik has experimented broadly with the concept of the monochrome. He has worked with a wide variety of shaped painting supports, including squares, rectangles, crosses, circles, and ovals. He has produced single panel paintings, as well as diptychs and triptychs. His paintings commonly featured layered surfaces sometimes involving up to thirty successive layers of paint, which according to the artist, “frees the paint from its support enabling it to become an independent surface”.

During this time, Erik also examined a painting’s relationship to the wall, the floor, its location within the exhibition space, and the viewer. Paintings are sometimes hung at an oblique angle to the floor or with the bottom edge of a painting positioned at eye level on the wall. In addition, he has analyzed the inherent tension between individual panels in a diptych or triptych, sometimes installing them abutted together horizontally or vertically, spaced apart at predetermined intervals, or positioned on the wall at a precise distance away from each other where the individual panels no longer relate. The exhibition will include two key works from this period, the black and yellow diptych BLK.RECT.+YEL.RECT.OB._O/L_09 (2009, oil on linen, 36 x 56 inches overall) and the new off-white egg-shaped painting P.2._OFF.W._O/L_11 (2011, oil on linen,19 x 15 inches).

Erik Saxon (b. 1941, San Francisco, CA, USA) has exhibited his work internationally for the past forty years, including Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States. His work has been included in solo and group exhibitions at venues, such as Stark Gallery, Lorence/Monk Gallery, Florence Lynch Gallery (all NYC), Modernism (San Francisco, CA), Newspace (Los Angeles, CA), Galerie L’A (Liege, Belgium), Georgia Museum of Art (Athens, GA), Bowdoin College Museum of Art (Brunswick, ME), Cincinnati Museum of Art (Cincinnati, OH), Krannert Art Museum (Champaign, IL), Brevard Museum of Art and Science (Melbourne, FL), Sunrise Museum (Charleston, WV), Gibbes Museum of Art (Charleston, SC), Wilhelm-Hack Museum (Ludwigshafen, Germany), Raum für Malerei, artothek, Kolnisches Stadt Museum (all Cologne, Germany), Kunstverein Arnsberg (Arnsberg, Germany), Museum Gegenstandsfreier Kunst (Landkreis Cuxhaven, Germany), Mondriaanhuis (Amersfoort, Netherlands), Museum of Modern Art (Belgrade, Serbia), Museo de Arte Contemporaneo Esteban Vicente (Segovia, Spain), and Museo Cantonale d’Arte (Lugano, Switzerland).

Erik is most closely associated with the Radical Painting Group active in NYC during the 1970s and early 1980s. The group stressed a radical return to the core concerns of painting. The group’s other participants included artists Marcia Hafif, Dale Henry, Anders Knutsson, Joseph Marioni, Olivier Mosset, Phil Sims, Doug Sanderson, Susanna Tanger, Frederic Matys Thursz, Merrill Wagner, and Jerry Zeniuk, among others.

Erik’s work has been discussed and reviewed in publications, such as Artforum, Art in America, The New York Times, Brooklyn Rail, Village Voice, New York Observer, New York Sun, San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times, and Kolner Stadt-Anzeiger (Germany). His paintings and drawings are included in many public and private collections internationally, including the Museum of Modern Art (NYC), National Gallery of Art (Washington, DC), UCLA Hammer Museum (Los Angeles, CA), Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, CT), Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA), Göteborg Museum of Art (Göteborg, Sweden), Museo Cantonale d’Arte (Lugano, Switzerland), and Museum of Modern Art (Belgrade, Serbia). His work has been collected by Wynn Kramarsky (NYC) and Giuseppe Panza (Varese, Italy).

In addition to his studio work, Erik has written extensively. His essays and criticism have appeared in exhibition catalogs worldwide and have been published in magazines, such as Artforum, Art in America, and Appearances, among others. Erik holds an MA and BA from the University of California, Berkeley, CA.

Erik Saxon at MINUS SPACE, by Sarah Schmerler, Art in America, October 2011
Erik Saxon at MINUS SPACE, by Sarah Schmerler, Sarah Schmerler blog, June 3, 2011
Erik Saxon’s Rigorous Yet Playful Abstraction, by Sharon Butler, Two Coats of Paint blog, May 13, 2011
Erik Saxon, Eva Lake blog, May 11, 2011
artBUZZ: On and Off the Grid, by Angela Basile, Brooklyn (The Borough), May 4, 2011

MINUS SPACE’s programming is made possible by the generous support of The Golden Rule Foundation, as well as individual donors. We thank you!

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