Monday, 18 June 2012

Early abstractions (1946-57) by Harry Smith

No. 1: A Strange Dream (l946)
No. 2: Message from the Sun (1946-48)
No. 3: Interwoven (1947-49) (Part 1)

No. 3: Interwoven (1947-49) (excerpt)
No. 4: Fast Track (1947)

Harry Smith produced extravagant abstract animations. The effects were often painted or manipulated by hand directly on the celluloid. Themes of mysticism, surrealism and dada were common elements in his work.

Information especially about Smith's early films is very contradictory. This is partly due to the work-in-progress nature of experimental filmmaking. Films are often reedited (hence the different runtimes), and occasionally incorporate reassembled footage of different films sometimes to be viewed with varying music tracks. For instance, the handmade films now known as No. 1, 2, 3, and 5 were accompanied by an improvising jazz band on May 12, 1950 when they premiered as part of the Art in Cinema series curated by Smith's friend Frank Stauffacher at the San Francisco Museum of Art.

Initially Smith intended to use Dizzy Gillespie songs. Later he showed the films with random records or even the radio as accompaniment. Smith stated that his films were made for contemporary music, and he kept changing their soundtracks. Smith also re-cut Early Abstractions to sync with Meet the Beatles! picked out by his wife, Rosebud Feliu-Pettet. After Smith's death, artists such as Philip Glass or DJ Spooky provided musical backgrounds for screenings of his films: Glass at the 2004 summer benefit concert of the Film-Makers' Cooperative and DJ Spooky at several venues in 1999 for Harry Smith: A Re-creation, an embroidered compendium of Smith's films put together by his close collaborator M. Henry Jones who tries to screen the films in the manner intended by Smith - as performances - using stroboscopic effects, multiple projections, magic lanterns, and the like.
Harry Smith

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