Text by: Katherine Ylitalo
David Foxcroft: Reconstructions
Everything is coming together for David Foxcroft in his most recent work, a series of bright, crisp, multi-layered photo works that contain as many relationships as a three dimensional chess game. Just as his work in the eighties received well-deserved attention for his ability to manipulate spatial relationships with processes of construction, he rachets up the level of complexity with construction and re-construction. His choice of the relatively new technology of flex prints is a perfect fit too, as it provides a suitable vehicle for the surface enhancements that Foxcroft uses to agitate the picture plane with more energy than ever.
The works in the exhibition from 1988 through 2004 form a bridge from his earlier work to the 2005 flex prints. These key pieces outline a trajectory toward the new work, but also stand on their own.
The suite of six flex prints has all the hallmarks of a carefully composed piece of music, perhaps a Bach concerto. Visual vertical scaffolds support each piece. An elegantly basic palette is presented: red (Sneakers); yellow (Slicker); blue (Pool); warm golden colours of the prairies (Harp); cool metallic colours of industry (Plasma); and all of them together in Coaster. Passages are repeated, reversed, and re-oriented. The interplay of implied and actual textures ripple on the surfaces.
But close inspection reveals that the building blocks are themselves snippets of magazine pages, often photographs of artwork reproduced in art magazines. An explanation of Foxcroft’s working methods charts the dissecting, cutting, arranging, rearranging, adhering, photographing, re-photographing, changing scale from small to large, changing orientation from the flatness of a table to the verticality of the wall and augmenting (remember that he is already working with things that have been previously arranged, photographed and possibly augmented). At each step, the process is in flux. Unrehearsed, the unexpected happens. In it’s complexity and modernity, Foxcroft’s new work probably bears a closer resemblance to contemporary music such as the witty and intelligent work of 20th century composer, Schnittke.
For example, take Sneaker. A red mouth gapes. Recognizable bits of Brian Jungen’s brilliant quasi Haida masks (themselves constructed from cut-up running shoes) come to the foreground while snapshots of a contemporary dance group recede, or come forward again in a crazed artworld hall of mirrors. Often, Foxcroft offers little escape passages. Here it’s in the top right corner where a cocoon dangles.
Or look at Slicker, predominantly yellow like a raincoat. It promises to be the most minimal, with the clearest structure and the smoothest presentation. But in its twenty-first century Mondrianesque mode, the grid is home to electric colours that snap in and out.
Pool, luscious in colour, re-creates the uneasy sensation of vertigo one has looking down from a high hotel window down to a swimming pool surrounded by a clutter of umbrellas and deck chairs. It plays with process and perception, issues of painting and photography.
In its time, Jan van Eyck’s masterpiece, Wedding Portrait (1434), that now hangs in the National Gallery in London was remarkable in many ways. The artist managed, with oil paint on board, to seduce the eye with spatial illusions by way of perspective and to skillfully represent the most sensual textures of the day by defining them with light. The most radical aspect of the painting though, was that the artist created a convincing world that was also clearly a constructed world. Foxcroft’s Reconstructions have a similar effect, but perhaps in reverse. The fractured, contemporary re-constructed space between painting and photography is clearly constructed, but it is also believable.
Katherine Ylitalo received a B.A. (1972) and M.A. (1973) from Stanford University. She has been active as a museum professional, educator, writer, and guest curator for over thirty years. Currently, she is responsible for the Civic Art Collection with the City of Calgary.
David Foxcroft received the Diploma in Fine Arts from the Alberta College of Art in 1977, and began to exhibit regularly in Calgary through 1988. During that time, he was awarded two Canada Council Project Grants and two Alberta Culture Project Grants. His work is published in: Young Contemporaries ’80, London Regional Art Gallery; A Measure of Success, the Alberta College of Art, 1985; and Artists of Alberta, the University of Alberta Press, 1980. In the last fifteen years he has continued to make art in his studio in Cochrane while managing FrameCo Custom Picture Framing in Inglewood, Calgary.