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Lewis Klahr Retrospective


Lewis Klahr Retrospective
May 1, 2010–May 31, 2010
Collage animator Lewis Klahr, the 2009–10 Wexner Center Residency Award recipient in media arts and a prize winner at the 2010 Rotterdam Film Festival, is the subject of a month-long retrospective in May.

Called “the reigning proponent of cut and paste” by the Village Voice’s J. Hoberman, Klahr uses images from advertising, comic books, and other ephemeral talismans of American commerce and popular culture to investigate our national dreamscape. You’ll see his most celebrated pieces, along with rarely seen treasures, and since Klahr often seems to look at his subjects through the lens of Hollywood genres like film noir and melodrama, we’ve asked him to pair his own works with some of the feature films that have influenced and inspired him.

Klahr visits to start off the series on May 1. Wednesday Morning Two A.M., one of the films supported by his residency that he'll introduce and screen that evening, was just announced as one of the three shorts to win a Tiger Award at this year's Rotterdam Film Festival. Here's what the jury citation says about the film: "An intimate and poetic study of the darkness of love and the beauty of texture—Wednesday Morning Two A.M. combines figurative realism with pure abstraction to remind us of the value of the small and the handmade."

This retrospective is made possible with support from the Wexner Center Residency Award program.

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May 1

Her Fragrant Emulsion
(1987) 11.5 mins.
In Her Fragrant Emulsion, Klahr immolates himself in the androgynous presence of the marginalized actress, nitro-burning funny-car diva Mimsy Farmer (Hot Rods to Hell, Riot on Sunset Strip)... He glues onto clear film leader tiny sliced strips and celluloid shrapnel bits of her Mimsiness clawed and gorged out of the 1969 shot-in-Italy hippie-noir feature Road to Salina. The images in Fragrant Emulsion barrage the viewer exclusively with elusive and erotic glimpses of this somewhat Sebergian former star of what can now be wistfully called skin flicks. The 8mm textures and enervated color of the serrated images rip open a piñata of sad nostalgias...
-Guy Maddin, Village Voice

Daylight Moon
(2002) 13 mins.
There are things I could say about Daylight Moon but very few I want to before someone sees it. But I will say this: of all the films I've made using collage to muck around in the past, this one gets the closest to what I'm after. -Lewis Klahr

False Aging
(2008) 14.5 mins.
It's hard to believe that False Aging clocks in at under 15 minutes, given how powerfully it evokes passing decades punctuated by muffled eruptions of longing and regret. A button revolves around a clock-and the world moves with it. Klahr shares Joseph Cornell's alchemical genius, but his collaged reveries cast deeper shadows and offer little magical protection from death and disappointment. -Kristin M. Jones, Film Comment, Top Ten Films of 2008

Wednesday Morning Two AM
(2009) 6.5 mins.
This is the first completed film of a new series entitled "Couplets." These will generally, but not exclusively, organize themselves around the pairing of various pop songs and, just as in these song lyrics, the theme of love. -Lewis Klahr

An intimate and poetic study of the darkness of love and the beauty of texture-Wednesday Morning Two AM combines figurative realism with pure abstraction to remind us of the value of the small and the handmade. -International Film Festival Rotterdam short film Tiger Award jury statement

Read the entire International Film Festival Rotterdam interview.

Nimbus Smile (2009) 8.5 mins.
Nimbus Seeds (2009) 8.5 mins.
Cumulonimbus (2010) 9 mins.
In this grouping of three related videos on the subject of romantic triangles, Klahr expands his explorations of memory, love, repetition, narrative, and loss in surprising new ways until the films build into complex emotional and artistic experiences. His about inter-film montage (the interconnected relationship of different films to each other) reach their fullest expression with these new works.

(2009) 22 mins.
One of Klahr's longest film and one of his most straightforward narrative melodramas, Lethe conjures up the full emotional spectrum and storytelling potential of a film by Vincente Minnelli or Douglas Sirk even though the only sets and actors are cut out pieces of paper brought to life by Klahr's imagination and storytelling abilities. Without sacrificing his signature forms of poetic abstraction and uncanny imagery, Klahr tells a tale ripped out a pulp novel. An older scientist devises a way to win the love of a beautiful younger woman and the film deals with the psychic fallout of this relationship upon the woman.

May 6

Engram Sepals (Melodramas 1944-2000)

(1994) 8 mins.
Included in both the 1995 Whitney Biennial and New York Film Festival. Purchased by the Museum of Modern Art for their permanent collection. Altair offers a cutout animation version of color noir. The images were culled from six late '40s issues of Cosmopolitan magazine and set to an almost four-minute section of Stravinsky's "Firebird" (looped twice) to create a sinister, perfumed world. As in my 1988 visit to this genre, In the Month of Crickets, the narrative is highly smudged leaving legible only the larger signposts of the female protagonist's story. The viewer is encouraged to speculate on the nature and details of the woman's battle with large, malevolent societal forces and her descent into an alcoholic swoon. However I feel it is important to add that what interested me in making this film was very little of what is described above but instead a fascination with the color blue and some intangible association it has for me with the late 1940s. -Lewis Klahr

Engram Sepals
(2000) 6 mins.
The dead body remembers. The Tibetan book of the dead meets film noir. An elliptical narrative of adultery and corporate espionage set to a score by Morton Feldman. -Lewis Klahr

Elsa Kirk
(1999) 5 mins.
In the mid 1990's I unearthed three photographic contact sheets of three different women in a thrift store in the East Village. Only one was named and dated - Elsa Kirk, Feb 22 '63 - but all looked like they were from the same photographer and time period. There were 12 images per sheet of these Models/Actresses and I found myself quite moved by the strong sense of aspiration in their poses; a poignant blend of fiction and reality. At first, I was unable to translate these images into collage animation. So instead, I began making xerox enlargements of the sheets which I turned into a series of flat collages. Eventually these became storyboards for the films and led to the hieroglyphic montage style of the completed work - an approach that I had intuited when first attracted to the potential of cutouts two decades ago, but had never been able to capture on film. -Lewis Klahr

Pony Glass
(1997) 14.5 mins.
Pony Glass is the story of comic book character Jimmy Olsen's secret life. In this 15-minute cutout animation Superman's pal embarks on his most adult adventure ever as he navigates the treacherous shoals of early '60s romance trying to resolve a sexual identity crisis of epic proportions. A three-act melodrama - each act has its own song - filmed in my signature collage style that "unmasks" our collective iconic inheritance as Americans while significantly expanding the notion of what a music video can do. -Lewis Klahr

(1999) 23 mins.
A three act countercultural coming of age melodrama. Told from a generational rather than individual's point of view. Beginning with appropriated student, super 8 footage of a 1970's alternative high school and finishing with footage I shot a month after college graduation of my brother's hippie wedding, Govinda charts a path from innocence to too much experience. -Lewis Klahr

Downs Are Feminine
(1994) 9 mins.
Lewis Klahr's Downs Are Feminine unveils a kind of rainy day, indoor, peaceable kingdom of desultory and idyllic debauchery, masturbatory reveries and hermaphroditic transformations. Klahr's oneric collages graft '70s porn of pallid stubbly flesh flagrantly onto Good Housekeeping/Architectural Digest decor (varicolored crab-orchard stone foyers, modacrylic sunbursts, jalousie windows and orientalist metal scrollwork), interior states where characters despoil themselves in Quaalude interludes of dreamy couplings. In this out-of-touch realm, touching is intelligence gathering for a carnal knowledge that will never attain its platonic ideal. The whole atmosphere is pervaded with euphoria, a hopelessness without despair, a contentment beyond longing. - Mark McElhatten, New York Film Festival

A Failed Cardigan Maneuver
(1999) 15 mins.
Children in a garden of outsized fruit dream of food and love, then grow up to have unhappy office love affairs in the glamorous Manhattan of the late 1950's. -J. Hoberman, Village Voice
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