Haines Gallery is pleased to announce our participation in Frieze New York 2018, offering a selection of early canvases by the American painter David Simpson (b. 1928; lives and works in the San Francisco Bay Area). This solo presentation in the fair’s Spotlight section will focus on Simpson’s seminal works from the late 1950s to the 70s, many of which will be on view for the first time since their initial museum showings. From this period onward, Simpson has been a significant figure not only to the West Coast scene, but also in the development of Post-War American painting.
Over an extraordinary career spanning six decades, David Simpson has developed a dynamic creative vision, shaped by boundless curiosity and a desire to expand the limits of painting. His striped oil paintings from 1950s and early 1960s hint at landscapes, with atmospheric waves radiating from a central horizon line, which can just as easily be experienced as bands of color. Simpson’s work from this period was first presented in several landmark mid-century exhibitions, including Dorothy Miller’s Americans 1963 (Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1963) and Clement Greenberg’s Post Painterly Abstraction (Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1965), alongside contemporaries such as Frank Stella, Ellsworth Kelly, Ad Reinhardt, and Claes Oldenberg.
The late 1960s and 1970s saw Simpson move towards a hard-edged abstraction, introducing pure color and geometric forms into his works, and playing with optics. His early atmospheric compositions gave way to intense, saturated color, meticulously applied as stripes that bend or swirl in curves. In Blue to Yellow Air (1967), a neon arc guides the viewer’s eye beyond the expanse of the blue canvas. As Simpson’s practice evolved, horizontal bands gradually transformed into the sweeping arcs of his Archangel series of paintings. Archangel #1 (1969), the pivotal first work form this series, is a 13-foot long composition featuring five identical, evenly spaced rainbow arches that stretch along the length of the stark black canvas.
Around this time, Simpson also began experimenting with shaped canvases, including a series of paintings shaped like elongated ellipses. With these oblong pieces, such as Green Light (1971), the artist began creating works that can fit snugly into our field of vision. As he investigated the primacy of color, the artist was working at the height of innovation of the contemporary art of his time, creating what the critic Clement Greenberg, writing in the catalog for the 1965 exhibition Post Painterly Abstraction, called “an authentically new episode in the evolution of contemporary art.”