Patrick O’Neill is one of the Los Angeles artists currently featured in the huge citywide exhibit known as ‘Pacific Standard Time.‘ He has made many experimental films using techniques perfected with an optical printer. This film incorporates footage of oil derricks in Venice, California and nude models filmed in the artist’s studio. Its synthesizer score is by Joseph Byrd. I don’t know much about optical printers, but I do know that they allow images or films to be projected and rephotographed by a movie camera. So my guess is that one could set up multiple layers of screens and projections to film them and blend them into a single image. Optical printers were used to create special effects in Hollywood films. I think perhaps the most famous use of the printer was in the creation of the light show sequence near the end of Stanley Kubrick’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey.’
O’Neill is one of the people who form the incredible fabric of the Los Angeles art scene post World War II. I did not know of him until I found his work through the Pacific Standard Time exhibit which is really something remarkable and I think that its effects will be felt in the art world for quite some time. Its broad scope, grouping and explanation of the Los Angeles art history and its significance cannot help but influence artists here in the city and far beyond. It’s essentially saying, ‘Look, here’s a great and fascinating body of work inspired by a city for the second half of the twentieth century. Here’s how it all happened, who the people were and what they were trying to do.’ It’s a very strong impression to make on a city. It must be a very great honor for an artist to be included in it.
I finished my first film in 1962. Then I started doing abstract or composite films. I began to use the camera as a sort of gathering device to provide elements for manipulation through re-photography. This led to 7362 which was finished in 1967. I didn’t have much knowledge about the history of the medium at that time. I’d had maybe three film classes at UCLA and beyond that the midnight screenings at the Coronet and the Cinema Theater were my education. That series at the Cinema Theater was going on from the early sixties.
While I was running through the Getty Center’s flagship portion of the massive citywide ‘Pacific Standard Time‘ art exhibit, I was struck by just how great this Wallace Berman fellow really was. Known primarily as the ‘father’ of assemblage art, he was also a member of the Beat Movement. He made a single film which occupied much of his time through the 1960s and 70s. It’s less than eight minutes long and it’s a drop dead gorgeous thing to see. He’s one of those film artists interested in what I like to call the messy image. The film seems to have been dragged through ink and dirt. It’s been scratched, wrinkled, folded, cut, slashed and stained. Letters flash by like subliminal messages. Pop culture crashes into modern art. He films magazines, papers, radios, faces, hands, rock stars, body parts, buildings, streets and apparently just about everything he had lying around in his studio. This film is a quiet little reminder that crystal clear HD and super sharp focus are not anywhere near the concerns of some artists.
And here is California assemblage artist George Herms talking about Berman recently as part of the Pacific Standard Time series of exhibits:
Pacific Standard Time is a massive overview of Los Angeles art from 1945 to 1980. At least sixty galleries and museums are taking part over the next few months. I have already been to the largest exhibits at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Getty Center. The whole thing is a lot of fun and I have discovered artists I never knew about before. There are magnificent things on display and the curators have also published big books to go along with each exhibit. I seriously recommend that you always get the books because they have far more information in them than the exhibits themselves. I view it as my own effort to compile a record of this unique regional art show.
This film was put together for the Getty Center’s flagship exhibit, Crosscurrents, which covers 1950 to 1970. It’s a very nice little documentary about some of the major art developments in Los Angeles.