Last November, when Buffalo art dealer Dean Brownrout approached CEPA Gallery Director Sean Donaher about an exhibition he had in mind, his entire presentation consisted of two words.
“I said, ‘Hollis Frampton,’ ” Brownrout recalled. “And he responded, ‘How does summer 2015 sound?’ ”
Summer 2015 sounded fine, and so, at 7 p.m. Saturday, CEPA Gallery will open an exhibition and sale of early photography and print work by the prolific filmmaker, photographer and theorist whose mere mention sets schedules in motion.
For those with even a passing interest in the history of experimental film, the beginnings of digital art or the international legacy of Buffalo’s 1970s art scene, Frampton’s name calls to mind a restless and relentless talent who seemed to embody the definitive spirit of the avant-garde artist.
Over the last decade or so, Brownrout said, Frampton’s reputation has been growing, partly because of the work of his late wife, Marion Faller, who meticulously collected, archived and promoted his work. In 2012, the same year Frampton’s work was featured in Albright-Knox Art Gallery’s exhibition “Wish You Were Here,” the Criterion Collection released a compilation of 24 of Frampton’s films called “A Hollis Frampton Odyssey.”
“Every month, more contemporary artists cite Frampton as an influence, which can be seen in writing such as David Foster Wallace’s ‘Infinite Jest,’ ” Brownrout said, adding that he is name-checked in a scene from the forthcoming film “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.”
Frampton, who served on the faculty of the University at Buffalo’s media study department for 10 years before his death in 1984, began his artistic life as a frustrated scholar who dropped out of college and stumbled into the photography and film industry in New York City. He made his first films and photographs as a laboratory technician in the early 1960s, capturing New York scenes and portraits of artist friends such as Frank Stella, Larry Poons and James Rosenquist – many of which appear in this exhibition.
After acquiring filmmaking equipment in 1966, the primary focus of his career shifted to film and he went on to make dozens of experimental pieces that probed, pushed and in some ways pierced the traditional boundaries of cinema.
Though Frampton remains best known for his film work, particularly for the 1970 film “Zorns Lemma,” this show consists primarily of photography, along with some early experiments in color photocopying, or xerography.
“There are so many facets to Frampton’s artistic output that it’s almost impossible to succinctly encapsulate his career, just evidenced by the fact that scholars continue to devote their entire academic focus to studying, analyzing and presenting on single areas of his work,” Brownrout said. “Many people know Frampton from his film work, and a show like this makes his viewpoint accessible through still photography and xerography.”
In addition to the exhibition, local arts organizations are hosting several ancillary activities and events, including a display of Frampton “objects and ephemera,” June 20 to Sept. 5 in the Western New York Book Arts Center; a screening of “Zorns Lemma,” featuring a live score, July 10 in the Burchfield Penney Art Center; a digital arts roundtable in August at CEPA Gallery; and a concert sponsored by Squeaky Wheel on Sept. 5 in Silo City.
What: “Hollis Frampton Exhibition and Sale”
When: Saturday through Sept. 5
Where: CEPA Gallery, 617 Main St.
Info: 856-2717 or cepagallery.org