Scores for a Room: David Haxton and Jim Melchert | 9/17/14 – 10/17/14

Scores for a Room: David Haxton and Jim Melchert

Guest Curated by Tanya Zimbardo

Wednesday, September 17th through Friday, October 17th, 2014
Opening Reception: 4 – 7 pm, Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

Worth Ryder Gallery, 116 Kroeber Hall, UC Berkeley
Gallery Hours: Tuesday through Saturday 12 – 5pm

Free and Open to the Public

Related public program: Headspace: Conceptual Film and Video
Tuesday, September 23, 2014, 7:30 – 9:00 pm, Dwinelle Hall, UC Berkeley Campus
A screening of short conceptual film & video work by Jim Melchert & select artists who were former students
Co-sponsored by the Department of Film and Media


From September 17 through October 17, 2014, the Worth Ryder Art Gallery at the University of California at Berkeley will present Scores for a Room: David Haxton and Jim Melchert. Guest curated by Tanya Zimbardo, Assistant Curator of Media Arts at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the exhibition brings together for the first time historic works by these two artists, exploring their different approaches to the description of space through structured activity performed for the camera. Both renowned artists turned to the projected image in the seventies, highlighting the shifting awareness of spatial perception in the interaction between illusionistic filmed space and a physical location.

Jim Melchert, Location Project #3, (slide detail), 1970; Powerhouse Gallery, University of California, Berkeley, November 1970; Sequence of 80 35mm slides projected on wall; Participants: Robert Armstrong, Carl Dern, Jim Pomeroy; Photography: Alexander Yuill-Thornton II; Courtesy the artist; © Jim Melchert

In November of 1970, Jim Melchert, a professor at UC Berkeley, created site-responsive slide installations at the University’s Powerhouse Gallery as part of a faculty exhibition coinciding with the opening of the University Art Museum. Location Project #3 features three artists, and alums, chosen because “they knew how to play”, who were asked to improvise movements in relation to a defined area of the exhibition space. In a sequence of eighty phases, Robert Armstrong works with the angle between wall and floor, Carl Dern relates to the horizontal planes of wall and floor, and Jim Pomeroy addresses the vertical plane of the wall, climbing up and down the art gallery’s ladders.

For his series of Location Projects, Melchert projected selected slides at a one-to-one scale, often activating the same space where the action had been carried out. As Melchert observed of his overall body of slide photography, “In the process of making these projection pieces, I became as interested in how a particular personality would handle the assignment, as in the assignment itself.” The Oakland-based artist was part of the first generation of Conceptual artists in California, working in various media, including slide projection, performance, film, and graphite rubbings of found photographs with accompanying text.

David Haxton, White, Red, and Green Lights, (film still) 1978, 16mm transferred to HD video, b&w and color, silent, 10 min.; Courtesy the artist and Gavlak, Palm Beach – Los Angeles; © David Haxton

David Haxton began creating his first films and film installations in 1970 as a faculty member of San Diego State University, reconstructing his studio environment within an exhibition space. He continued to produce short, silent 16mm films over the decade in his Soho studio in New York. These self-reflexive works center on the continuity of a performer’s movement back and forth and across the picture plane. Using a static camera and without editing, Haxton created various illusions through his inventive use of negative film and manipulation of lighting. His highly choreographed, but low-key pieces feature the artist or another performer utilizing elements from the studio such as backdrop paper, masking tape, light stands, and ladders. Haxton notes that, “sets created in the filmed space are designed so that the activities of the performers will gradually reveal the three dimensionality of the space while continually referring back to the flatness of the screen and the physicality of the light producing the filmed image.” His still color photography dovetailed with his moving image work in the late seventies, initially taking the leftover materials of his film sets as its point of departure.

Shot from an overhead angle in both black-and-white and color negative, the performer in White, Red and Green Lights (1978) rearranges fluorescent tubes on the floor to emphasize the vertical plane of the screen and edges of the film frame. Lyrically synthesizing aspects of his previous films, Painting Room Lights (1980) likewise uses negative imagery and light sources to manipulate the sense of depth and definition of the studio. On a seemingly blank surface of the image, the artist appears to paint the outlines of a room, and then erases this drawn illusion.

This exhibition will offer the Bay Area a unique opportunity to experience these time-based installations, and for many of the Worth Ryder Art Gallery’s visitors, may provide an important introduction to the artists. Haxton has revisited and digitized his filmic work in the past decade. Melchert’s Location Project #3 was last exhibited in 1975 at SFMOMA in a monographic survey of his slide projection works.

About the Artists:

David Haxton (born 1943, Indianapolis, Indiana; lives and works in Winter Park, Florida) trained as a painter at the University of Michigan (MFA 1967) and University of Central Florida (BA 1965). Haxton was among the visual artists supported by the Castelli-Sonnabend Gallery Film and Videotapes in New York. Working primarily in photography, he has held solo presentations at Gavlak Gallery, Miami; Priska C. Juschka Fine Art, New York; Sonnabend Gallery, New York; Anthology Film Archives, New York; Milennium, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Simon Fraser University Gallery, Burnaby, Canada; State University of New York; Plattsburgh; and the University of South Florida, among others. Haxton has participated in numerous group exhibitions and screenings at such institutions as The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.C.; The Centre Pompidou, Paris; South London Gallery; Orlando Art Museum; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; Kunstverein, Munich; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Santa Barbara Museum of Art; Museum of Modern Art, Belgrade; and Whitney Biennials (1979, 1981, 1983). Haxton recently retired from the School of Visual Art and Design at the University of Central Florida, where he taught since the 1990s and was instrumental in developing the Master of Fine Arts program and animation curriculum.

Jim Melchert (born 1930, New Bremen, Ohio; lives and works in Oakland, California) has resided in the East Bay since he came to study ceramics at UC Berkeley where he earned his MA in 1961, following receiving his MFA 1957, University of Chicago, and AB 1952 Princeton University. Melchert taught at UC Berkeley from 1965 until 1992 and is now Professor Emeritus of the Department of Art Practice. His projection-based work was shown at Documenta 5 (1972) and at range of venues including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the de Young Museum, San Francisco; Baltimore Museum of Art; de Appel, Amsterdam; Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art; Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive; and the Orange County Museum of Art, among others. His work in various media has additionally been included in exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo; Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago; Gallery Paule Anglim, San Francisco, and Paul Kotula Projects, Detroit, Michigan; among others. Melchert served as the Director of the Visual Arts Program at the National Endowment for the Arts in Washington DC (1977‒1981); he then joined the American Academy in Rome as Director (1984‒1988).

Tanya Zimbardo is the Assistant Curator of Media Arts at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. She has co-organized at SFMOMA the biennial 2012 and 2010 SECA Art Award exhibitions, Fifty Years of Bay Area Art: The SECA Awards (2012); The More Things Change (2011); curated The Studio Sessions (2009) and numerous film and video screenings. She has co-authored and has contributed texts to several SFMOMA publications including Open Space (2012‒14). Her research and writing is centered on conceptual art and artist-run exhibition projects in California in the 1970s and 1980s. She is currently developing an online project for SFMOMA’s digital storytelling initiative that will focus on online and project-based artworks, public interventions, and alternative exhibition models in the Bay Area since the 1990s. Her upcoming independent projects include a survey of women artists working in public space for Mills College Art Museum (co-curated with Christian L. Frock).  Zimbardo received her MA in Curatorial Practice from the California College of the Arts and her BFA in Photography + Imaging from the NYU Tisch School of the Arts. 

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