The Getty Center


This series of films draws from several wildly different cultural moments that each held significance for the artists celebrated in the London Calling exhibition, from the poetry of the everyday, to images of striking, singular figures. Delve deeper into the social and psychological context of these painters, and find, through the lens of cinema, a window into their contemporary world and fascinating obsessions, which funneled into their groundbreaking art.

This film series is intended for teen and adult audiences. Free, reservations required.



 

Harold M. Williams Auditorium
Friday, September 23, 2016
7:30 p.m.

As you walk through the London Calling exhibition, the last two paintings you encounter, by Lucian Freud, show a strikingly large male figure. One is framed tightly around his broad, cumbrous head, resting on his shoulder peacefully asleep, showing oddly pronounced dimple-like marks on each cheek. The other is a monumental full-length nude, where this raw and commanding figure towers over the viewer. The man depicted in these unforgettable paintings is Leigh Bowery, an Australian performance artist, avant-garde fashion designer, and icon of the 1980s London club scene, known for outrageous, one-of-a-kind costumes. Freud was fascinated by Bowery both physically and intellectually, and painted him repeatedly across a four year period, until Bowery's untimely death from AIDS. Inspired both by his "wonderfully buoyant bulk" as well as "the quality of his mind," the painter's signature style revealed Bowery in a dramatically opposite fashion than his infamous costumed and masked public personas, deftly exposing the depths of his complexities.

While Freud's paintings are widely exhibited, Leigh Bowery and his compellingly radical work and life remain largely unknown. Discover the story behind this intriguing man in a special presentation of the honest and touching documentary The Legend of Leigh Bowery, directed by renowned video artist Charles Atlas. This film delves into the evolution of Bowery as a designer whose creations were so singular and powerful that they couldn't be contained by the club, the theater, or the gallery, to becoming a performer himself, fully realizing the characters within the costumes. It traces Bowery's influence on, not only Lucian Freud, but a generation of artists across disciplines, notably the Michael Clark Dance Company, Boy George, Alexander McQueen, and David Bowie. Bowery's designs and performances played with extremes, mining the complexities around modern identity and the tension between pleasure and pain, but never without humor—it was not quite drag, but a radical re-envisioning of fashion as a site for self-expression and experimentation.

Joining us in person to introduce the film is director Charles Altas, who was a regular collaborator with Leigh Bowery and made several video artworks featuring him in his various visages. A pioneering figure in film and video for over four decades, Atlas is known for boundary-pushing techniques, including the fostering of compellingly close and collaborative relationships with his subjects, such as artists and performers like Bowery and Michael Clark, as well as Douglas Dunn, Marina Abramovic, Yvonne Rainer, Mika Tajima/New Humans, Antony and the Johnsons, and most notably Merce Cunningham, for whom he served as in-house videographer for a decade from the early 1970s through 1983; their close working relationship continued until Cunningham's death in 2009.

Along with The Legend of Leigh Bowery, Atlas will present his short film Teach, a performance created for the camera, where Bowery, adorned with his signature exaggerated make-up and a fake plastic smile pinned to his face, lip-syncs to Aretha Franklin's "Take a Look," confronting the audience with moments unsettling, sardonic, enthralling, and endearing.

With these two films, delve in to the story behind the man in Freud's paintings and celebrate the complex and powerful world of Leigh Bowery, one of London society's true originals, whose creativity produced a thriving subculture, and whose unique presence captivated some of the greatest artistic minds of the 20th century.

Charles Atlas was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1958. His work has been shown at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France; the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, UK; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; and the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands. Atlas lives and works in New York City and Paris.

The Legend of Leigh Bowery
(2002, 82 minutes, dvd)

Teach
(1992-98, 7 minutes, digital presentation)


 

Harold M. Williams Auditorium
Saturday, September 24, 2016
4:00 p.m.

Francis Bacon may have first seen Battleship Potemkin, Sergei Eisenstein's masterwork of world cinema, as a teenager while living in Berlin in the late 1920s, but its full impact on the young man would not surface for several decades. It's a film that Bacon would go on to watch obsessively, and later would refer to as a key catalyst for his artistic imagination. Representing a great creative moment in the history of cinema, Battleship Potemkin is notable for Eisenstein's brilliant use of montage–the rapid juxtaposition of individual shots, distorting space and time to create compelling visual and metaphorical connections. The film's formal beauty is countered by the depiction of stark power, raw humanity, and its brutal suppression.

Based in history and shot in a documentary style, Eisenstein depicts a fictionalized massacre of ordinary citizens on a giant public stairway in the town of Odessa. A child in a stroller rolls out of control down the steps as people flee, and the baby's nurse looks on in terror. The magnificently edited sequence is one of the most enduring in all cinema.

This legendary scene, and particularly the image of the hysterical, bloodied nurse, would become seared in Bacon's mind, and was the source of his most well known reoccurring motif: the gruesomely wide-mouthed scream. The moment is frozen in Bacon's 1957 painting Study for the Nurse in the Film Battleship Potemkin, where her figure is stripped and isolated in a void. Echoes of her agony would reverberate throughout the artist's lifelong practice. The film's emotional disturbance was further accentuated by the distortion of linear time through montage sequences, a strategy that Bacon employed in his paintings, where figures are pulled from the real world into abstracted spaces, their forms bent and altered to reveal psychological layers.

Join us in viewing this iconic piece of cinematic history to reconsider it through the context of Francis Bacon's work, and to meditate on the impact it had on one of the modern era's most significant painters.

(1925, 75 minutes, Blu-ray)


 

Harold M. Williams Auditorium
Saturday, September 24, 2016
7:00 p.m.

"No film can be too personal. The image speaks. An attitude means a style. A style means an attitude... Implicit in this attitude is a belief in freedom, in the importance of people and in the significance of the everyday." - MANIFESTO FOR A FREE CINEMA,1956

Free Cinema was a highly influential documentary film movement, born out of a series of screenings held at the London's National Film Theatre in the late 1950s. Its gritty and sharply observant films eschewed traditional tropes of entertainment yet made headlines and attracted sold-out crowds at their screenings. This brief movement would go on to lay the foundations for the "Kitchen Sink" style of realism that defined the British New Wave as it sought to capture the raw truth of everyday life for ordinary Britons. While quotidian in subject matter and devoid of commentary, the films are deftly cut with undercurrents of social critique. Like the painters in the London Calling exhibition who pursued figuration during the height of abstraction, these filmmakers, led by Lindsay Anderson, refused to work within the accepted modes of the film industry and instead aimed to create work "free" from any box office appeal, refocused on the working class, who they felt had been overlooked by the middle-class-dominated British film establishment of the time.

This event is an exact re-creation of the first Free Cinema screening on February 5, 1956. Imagine yourself transported to post-war London where the Evening News reported afterwards that "Every beard and duffle coat in London, every urchin-cut and pair of jeans seemed to converge on the National Film Theatre on South Bank last night. Queues of cinema enthusiasts, even longer than during the Festival of Britain, stood in the drizzle for hours in the hope of seeing three short films [that] in four days have become the talk of the town." It was a night of such success that it would lead to regular Free Cinema screenings for the following five years, featuring contributions from international directors (notably the American documentary On the Bowery), and create a platform for experimental works to flourish widely. These slice-of-life films offer a rich contextualization of the nuances and textures of the everyday society from which the painters of London Calling exhibition emerged, while channeling many of the very same artistic strategies that would remain paramount to them.

O Dreamland

(Directed by Lindsay Anderson, 1953, 12 minutes, dvd)

This short film was shot by Lindsay Anderson, Free Cinema's galvanizing figure, a few years before the movement formed. After seeing the other films that would be included in the debut screening, Anderson recognized their artistic affinity. The film is a striking mediation on the attractions of the decaying 'Dreamland' funfair in Margate, and Anderson's camera lurks among the unsuspecting entertainment-seeking, working-class families. Shot in a deliberately harsh fashion, the film lingers on a 'Torture through the Ages' exhibit, bingo, penny arcades, bangers, beans and chips, and nightmarish mechanical puppets, paired with the faces of terrified children. The garish soundtrack is permeated with the recurring laughter of the automated clowns, which takes on a sinister, mocking tone, marking a latent sense of horror within the mundane, inspiring one critic to write, "Everything is ugly... It is almost too much... Pity, sadness, even poetry is infused into this drearily tawdry, aimlessly hungry world."

Momma Don't Allow

(Directed by Tony Richardson and Karel Reisz, 1956, 22 minutes, dvd)

Painter Frank Auerbach said "What I wanted to do was to record the life that seemed to me to be passionate and exciting and disappearing all the time." This binding impulse between the artists in the London Calling exhibition and the Free Cinema filmmakers is no better shown than in Momma Don't Allow, which captures one frenzied night in the Wood Green Jazz Club with Chris Barber's Jazz Band and an audience of young men and women. Following a group of "Teddy Boys" and their clashes with other upper-class teens, the film points to the new phenomenon of youth culture, and the subsequent subcultures that flourished in contemporary Britain, where rapidly changing fashions and attitudes became a social language challenging class and taste.

Together

(Directed by Lorenza Mazzetti, Starring Eduardo Paolozzi and Michael Andrews, 1955, 52 minutes, dvd)

A largely overlooked yet extraordinarily layered film, Together started as a fictionalized tale of two deaf-mutes looking for work on the London docks. The roles of these two downtrodden plebeians are in fact performed by two extraordinary visual artists: Pop Art sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi, and painter Michael Andrews, a featured artist in the London Calling exhibition. Once the plot was scrapped, Mazzetti reworked the film with Lindsay Anderson, who recognized the high quality of the raw the footage she captured of these men passing through the tragically sublime alleys and crumbling bomb sites of London's East End. Signaling the artist's role as a medium for the translation of culture, Andrews and Paolozzi are our silent guides in this quasi-documentary, where their unmediated encounters with packs of street kids and members of the struggling community shows a city struggling to recover from World War II.


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The Getty Center is located at 1200 Getty Center Drive in Los Angeles, California, approximately 12 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles. See Hours, Directions, Parking for maps and driving directions.