The connection between artists and film has a long history. Consider the influence that cinema had on Picasso at the turn-of-the-century, explored in the important exhibit organized by the Pace Gallery several years ago. Consider as well the avant-garde movies made by Man Ray, Dali and Leger during the 1920s, all works exploring new art movements and their connection to film. Important artists are still discovering how cinema can expand their aesthetics, even today.
There’s another long-standing connection between artists and film: documentaries profiling the life and work of individuals in the creative arts. This September and October, East Hampton’s Pollock Krasner House presents a series of such films as part of its annual, decade-long presentation evoking the importance of artists and cinema.
This year, the series celebrates the diverse roles that “Connections” play in the lives of contemporary artists. For example, it’s been said that creativity often starts in conversations as artists interact with each other. Yet, there are also other connections, like an artist’s relationship with his environment. Personal and professional insights are exposed in the creative process as well, and we, the viewer, also become connected to the artists.
The first film in the series, Ray Johnson On-Line, explores the mysterious and spectacular 1995 death of Sag Harbor photographer/artist Ray Johnson. His work is also featured in the form of “mail art,” part collage, part manifesto, part parody. The remarkable aspect of Johnson’s art is the fact that recipients were asked to “Add to” the drawings—one is reminded of the surrealist’s “Exquisite Corpse” endeavor. Thus, connections are made between Johnson and the receivers of his art: a kind of interactive process.
Jackson Pollock: Portrait is the second film to be shown, a rarely seen profile that brings new insights to his art and relationship with his wife, Lee Krasner, and other artists. Pollock’s narration (voiced by an actor) is memorable, establishing a connection with himself as he admits his own vulnerabilities. Interviews with Krasner expand other ideas, like Pollock’s mixed feelings of both worth and lack of self-confidence. Other interviews with Mercedes Matter suggest the kind of inner life Pollock might have experienced.
Eames: The Architect and the Painter follows the life of husband and wife team, Charles and Ray Eames. Connection is obvious in this film: Their professional collaboration is extraordinary, as is their use of diverse disciplines, such as design, architecture, photography and even science. It’s a pleasure to see this connection at work in their chair that looks like a “potato chip” or a “well-used first baseman’s mitt.” And who can forget their folding screen that ripples; or, for that matter, all their designs that were playful and functional, process and product, and always solved a problem?
The Visual Language of Herbert Matter enhances our knowledge of the photographer/graphic artist Herbert Matter, whose son, Alex, showed his father’s film Works of Calder at last year’s series.
Coincidently, Matter and his wife, Mercedes, formed close connections with Pollock and Charles Eames. We are left, however, with the relationship that Matter had with his native Switzerland and the way his early environment informed his work.
Helen Harrison and I curated the series. Discussions follow the screenings. Guests will be present who have production connections with the films.
SCHEDULE OF “ARTISTS ON FILM”
Sept. 6: Ray Johnson On-Line
Sept. 20: Jackson Pollock: Strokes of Genius
Sept. 27: Eames: The Architect and the Painter
Oct. 4: The Visual Language of Herbert Matter
The screenings are at 7 p.m. at the Pollock Krasner House, 830 Fireplace Road, East Hampton. Call 631-324-4929 or visit pkhouse.org. There is a small admission for non-members of the Pollock Krasner House. No reservations