Honor Fraser Gallery is pleased to present early photographs by William Leavitt in the Spotlight section of Frieze New York.
William Leavitt has spent over five decades exploring the potential of constructed spaces and the role of science fiction in the collective imagination. The presentation at Frieze will include seven photographic works from 1969 through 1977 that demonstrate early experiments with imagery and offer insights into Leavitt’s continuing practice.
Leavitt began experiments with image pairings in 1969 with the series Random Selection. Each composition for the camera followed a shuffle of file cards on which the artist wrote the names of available objects. Through this process, Leavitt watched as the juxtapositions of arbitrary objects led to chance narratives within each photograph.
Extending beyond the single image, Leavitt continued building narratives through the side-by-side combination of three to five images. Never before exhibited, Three Scenes from Antigone (1973) points out the artist’s early interest in theater and plot development. These photographs are the only documentation of a staging of Sophocles’s Antigone in the California desert performed for the camera alone.
Sometimes including a text that read like a set description at the beginning of a script, Leavitt’s sequence of images can be read like a storyboard. The images in The consequences can be real (1975) suggest the location, character, time of day, setting, and action for a narrative. Each photograph is closely cropped and devoid of extraneous information because Leavitt aimed to make his images as generic as possible, relying on visual clichés to expediently convey information to the viewer.
These early works laid the foundation for William Leavitt’s expansive practice that now encompasses sculpture, drawing, painting, plays, and films. Drawing upon contemporary American culture, Leavitt opens a wealth of possibilities.
William Leavitt was born in Washington, D.C. in 1941 and lives in Los Angeles, CA. He received a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Colorado, Boulder, CO and a Master of Fine Arts from the Claremont Graduate School, Claremont, CA. One-person exhibitions of his work have been presented at The Musée d’art moderne et contemporain in Geneva, Switzerland (2017); the Institute of the History and Theory of Architecture, ETH, Zurich, Switzerland (2014); Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA (2011); and Santa Monica Museum of Art, Santa Monica, CA (1990). His work has been featured in thematic exhibitions around the world including art historical surveys such as Spaces without drama or surface is an illusion, but so is depth, Graham Foundation, Chicago, IL (2017); Los Angeles: A Fiction, Astrup Fearnley Museet, Oslo, Norway (2016); Take it or Leave It: Institution, Image, Ideology, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA (2014); Under the Big Black Sun: California Art 1974-1981, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA (2011); Los Angeles, 1955-1985: Birth of an Art Capital, Centre Pompidou, Paris, France (2006); Made in California: Art, Image, and Identity, 1900-2000, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA (2000); and 1965-1975: Reconsidering the Object of Art, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA (1995). Leavitt’s work is included in public collections such as Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam, The Netherlands; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA; The Musée d’art moderne et contemporain, Geneva, Switzerland; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA; Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art, La Jolla, CA; and Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.