Hollis Frampton, Spaghetti, 1964. Ektachrome photograph. © Estate of Hollis Frampton.
This is the first retrospective of Hollis Frampton’s work in photography and xerography in the United Kingdom.
Frampton (1936-1984) was a pioneering filmmaker, artist, writer and teacher. In comparison to his celebrated and hugely influential films, Frampton’s work in photography and xerography – as well as that in other media, including sculpture and collage – is relatively unknown. However, his engagement with photography preceded his work in film and continued intermittently over 25 years of artistic practice: from 1958, the year Frampton first moved to New York City and worked as a still photographer, making occasional pieces, until 1984, the year of his death.
He began to experiment with photography at a time when it was undervalued and critically dismissed, initially focussing on portraiture, especially that of New York-based artists (most importantly Frank Stella), and street photography. These early photographic series often engaged with particular traditions in photography or paradoxes that Frampton identified. They were also starting points for some of his best known films and were even incorporated into them. Furthermore, his later theoretical writing would attempt to forge, as Bruce Jenkins has put it, ‘an engaged, intellectually resonant, and distinctly modernist form of critical discourse for the fields of photography, film, and video’.
Just as his filmmaking practice was informed by his photographic work, Frampton’s later xerographic work, which he began in 1971, was informed by his filmmaking practice. Throughout his work in photography and xerography, Frampton largely worked in sequences or series, which allowed him to create sustained investigations of particular ideas or problems. The works on display in this exhibition point in to Frampton’s films and theoretical writing and out to a much broader set of reflections on time, the history of photography, and codes and conventions within advertising imagery. They are also replete with idiosyncratic humour.
In Goldsmiths CCA’s basement galleries, this exhibition presents works from different series, including Word Pictures (1962 – 1963), By Any Other Name (1979-1983) and ADSVMVS ABSVMVS (1982). It also exhibits two collaborative series made with the artist Marion Faller, Sixteen Studies from VEGETABLE LOCOMOTION (1975) and Rites of Passage (1983-1984). The exhibition is complemented by an archival presentation of some textual materials and production notes related to unrealised projects, as well as contact sheets of portraits of artists – including Larry Poons, Robert Morris and Lee Lozano – which Frampton took in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
This exhibition is accompanied by a series of screening and discussion events.
Hollis Frampton (1936-1984) was a filmmaker, artist, writer and teacher, and is considered one of the most brilliant and important figures of the North American avant-garde. Having attended Phillips Academy in Andover and Western Reserve University, Frampton moved to New York in 1958 and began his career as a still photographer. He was exhibiting his films on a regular basis by the late 60s and in 1973 joined the faculty at SUNY Buffalo, where he helped develop the illustrious Center for Media Study. Throughout the 1970s, Frampton wrote influential texts for Artforum and October; many of these articles are collected in his important book Circles of Confusion: Film, Photography, Video – Texts 1968 – 1980. After 1972, Frampton concentrated on his 36-hour-long calendrical film cycle, Magellan, which remained incomplete at the time of his death. During this time, Frampton also produced xerographic and photographic work, which he referred to as his ‘other work’. He also completed multiple collaborative projects with the artist Marion Faller, to whom he was married.