Robert Lax (1915-2000), Untitled, 1970s; black and white photograph, 11 x 17 inches; Robert Lax Archives. St. Bonaventure University
Merton & Lax: Image and Word
On View Friday, April 13–Sunday, August 26, 2018
Thomas Merton and Robert Lax were artists and spiritual leaders, internationally recognized. Western New York was their growth culture.
Lax was born in Olean, visited, lectured, published and died here, buried in the cemetery of the Franciscan friars at St. Bonaventure. He met Merton, born in France and raised in England, at Columbia, where they wrote for the university literary magazine, The Jester. Merton gobbled up life, jazz, booze, romance, writing and religion. He considered life as a Roman Catholic priest. He asked Lax, an observant Jew, how he might pursue. Lax suggested: "Become a saint."
Merton taught at St. Bonaventure and in 1941 entered the rigorous life in the Trappist Abbey of Gethsemane in Kentucky. His life was one of prayer and writing about it, as well as social justice. He made monotype prints, published two anti-art zines and made photographs, largely hidden until recently.
Lax wandered the Western world, wrote for Time, the New Yorker, Parade and Jubilee. The taught, was a clown in an Italian Circus, volunteered in soup kitchens, and left the U.S. for the Greek Islands, living at remove. He returned for an artist's residency at Artpark, an exhibition at The Burchfield Penney Art Center, and received an award at St. Bonaventure, visiting relatives. He made long skinny contemplative poems and he also made photographs, largely hidden until recently.
This is an exhibition of the two friend's work - the complete run of the broadside zine Lax called Pax. And a selection of his most aesthetically daring photographs, all from the Lax Archive at St.Bonaventure. Merton' drawings, Zen influenced monotypes and photographs were selected from the Merton Archive at Columbia and from a private collector.
Curated by Anthony Bannon, emeritus director of the Burchfield Penny Art Center and Paul Spaeth the rare Books and Special Collections Librarian at St. Bonaventure, and curator of the Thomas Merton Archives and the founder/curator of the Robert Lax Archives.