The centerpiece of a new exhibition of photography and writings by Robert Lax at the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts is a full-length painting of the poet and photographer by American artist Harry Jackson (1924-2011).
The portrait was painted in 1962 by Jackson and is on loan to the Quick Center from the Harry Jackson Institute for two years. The arts center was able to bring the painting from the artist’s studio in Wyoming to the St. Bonaventure University campus thanks to gift from Lax family members Jack and Marcia Kelly.
Born in Olean in 1915, Lax’s family moved between Olean and Long Island. Lax attended Columbia University in the 1930’s, studying under the likes of poet Mark Van Doren and becoming fast friends with writer Thomas Merton, painter Ad Reinhardt and author Ed Rice.
After college, Lax worked in a variety of jobs; as a tutor, writing advertising copy, teaching college English and as an editor and writer. He worked on the editorial staff of The New Yorker, was a reviewer for Time, a freelancer for Parade, and even worked in the script department of Samuel Goldwyn Studio in Hollywood. Later he was an editor for the short-lived Parisian literary journal New Story, a co-founder and editor of the Catholic culture magazine Jubilee, and the founder/publisher of the poetry broadside Pax.
Lax had published many poems in various magazines and journals and it was not until he met the graphic artist Emil Antonucci in the 1950’s that his publishing career began to take shape. Antonucci began to publish materials by Lax in small press editions under the imprint of the Hand Press and later Journeyman Books. The most important of these early publications was “Circus of the Sun” (1959), a cycle of poems about Lax’s travels with the Cristiani Family Circus through western Canada in 1949.
In 1987, Lax began an archive at St. Bonaventure. The bibliography of Lax’s published writings — and works based on his writings — runs to well over 500 items ranging from single poems, to pamphlets, to books, and includes graphic art, film, video, photography and performance art.
Lax, who died in 2000, was awarded an honorary doctorate by St. Bonaventure in 1990.
Regular gallery hours at the Quick Center are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Admission is free and the center is open to the public year round. Visit the Quick Center at www.sbu.edu/quickcenter.
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