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Thursday, September 29, 2022

Thanks to Antonio for sending along this article by Ferran Bono at El País, about a new exhibition in Spain that includes Brian De Palma's documentary short, The Responsive Eye:
They were archaic visionaries. They raised the need to start "from scratch" after the horror of World War II. They wanted to break with expressionism and the gestures of post-war art, work in groups and use the technologies of the moment, light, optical effects, scientific research, turn painting upside down, as can be seen in the exhibition Far from the void . ZERO and post-war art in Europe.

Organized by the Institut Valencià d'Art Modern (IVAM), the exhibition exhibits works by artists such as Yves Klein, Jean Tinguely, Piero Manzoni, Equipo 57 or Lucio Fontana, the spiritual father of most of them. And it also includes a rarity that reveals the influence exerted by these creators gathered in cities like Düsseldorf, Milan, Amsterdam, Paris or Zagreb.

This is the documentary directed in 1966 at the age of 25 by a then unknown filmmaker, Brian de Palma, about the exhibition The responsive eye that the MoMA in New York mounted a year earlier. It exhibited works by these European creators and their referents, as well as other North American artists who had followed in the footsteps of the first, exploring the world of illusions and optical effects, of advances in science, in the production of movement in the painting. The director of films as popular as Carrie, who stopped studying science to dedicate himself to cinema, where he stood out for his visual ability, interviews the protagonists with a camera in hand and shows examples of these abstract works, encouraged by the precedents of the avant-garde of between the wars, Moholy-Nagy's experimentation with light and engineering, or the geometric forms and composition of the Russian constructivists.

The documentary can be seen in the last room of the exhibition which, curated by Bartomeu Marí, reviews some of these movements that took place in Europe between 1957 and 1966, taking as a reference the ZERO group, made up of Heinz Mack, Otto Piene and Gunter Uecker , whose ideas spread through the magazine of the same name. It brings together a total of 175 works, including paintings, sculptures, documents and films, from the IVAM collection, the Zero Foundation and numerous museums and galleries. The exhibition opens this Thursday and runs until February 12.

“The exhibition allows us to understand the hinge position that these groups exercised between the historical avant-gardes and subsequent relational art, while bringing us closer to the long 1960s, with critical episodes such as the Cold War, capitalist developmentalism and so many other utopias. and dystopias that end up shifting the focus towards other forms of art such as pop or minimal”, explained this Wednesday Nuria Enguita, director of the IVAM.

Organized around five rooms, the exhibition shows the aesthetic proposals of this generation of artists, far removed from the prevailing expressionism. "In the first introduction room we remember the veneration that the young artists of the moment had for Lucio Fontana", according to the curator. The Italian-Argentinean Lucio Fontana (1899-1968) was the founder in 1946 of spatialism, which sought to eradicate the art of the easel in painting and try to capture movement and time.

A second room contrasts the scenes of Düsseldorf, where the ZERO magazine is published, and that of Milan, where the Azimuth Gallery and the magazine of the same name animated the European scene for a short year. The following gallery contrasts the Dutch scene with influential artists like Yves Klein and Jean Tinguely.

The exhibition continues with the group of younger Italian artists "who investigate movement, optical effects and the first experiments with the cyber world, the interactivity between viewer and work, before it was called digital," said Marí. The exhibition concludes with installations that include light and movement.

There is also a room dedicated to the works of the Spanish artists from Team 57 (Luis Aguilera, Ángel Duarte, José Duarte, Juan Serrano and Agustín Ibarrola), who participated in various exhibitions related to the new trend with proposals that matched the debates of the moment, just as young Italian artists did who created what we now call immersive installations.

Marí pointed out that the experimentation with light, mirrors and movement in the work of those artists was later applied in recreational and festive activities, in nightlife, in the discos that were experiencing their golden age.

“They were a generation that, having lived through the war as children, wanted to move away from the void to propose a new art, in the spirit of the purest avant-garde, an art that, far from the idea of genius, already proposed an art accessible to all”, affirmed Nuria Enguita.

Posted by Geoff at 7:56 AM CDT
Updated: Thursday, September 29, 2022 8:21 AM CDT
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Sunday, November 7, 2021

In the "special thanks" portion of the end credits of Wes Anderson's new film, The French Dispatch, he includes Noah Baumbach, Jake Paltrow, and Brian De Palma all on one line, near the top. The published edition of the film's screenplay includes an interview conducted by Walter Donohue, who asks Anderson about the particular use of color in the "Concrete Masterpiece" portion of the film:
Would the impact of the paintings have been the same if the story had been shot in color?

It was the Emile de Antonio movie Painters Painting - which I love - that suggested to me the idea to shoot only the paintings in color. Because he did that. I think, in his case, it might have been to save money on film stock for the interview parts of his film - but it is a beautiful effect. And it is such an interesting movie.

ALSO: Brian De Palma's short documentary of an opening of op art at the Museum of Modern Art - The Responsive Eye - in the mid-sixties. I love it, too.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Sunday, November 14, 2021 12:26 AM CST
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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Posted this past Saturday at Richard James - Savile Row:
As a young filmmaker, long before the delights of Dressed to Kill, Scarface and, more recently, Mission Impossible, Brian De Palma made documentaries.

One, notably, was The Responsive Eye, which looked at the groundbreaking exhibition of the same name that was held at The Museum of Modern Art in 1965.

De Palma’s film was something we looked at quite closely when we were putting together our new AW17 Camofleur collection, which takes inspiration from the work of the celebrated razzle dazzle camofleur Norman Wilkinson and the Op Art movement of the sixties and early seventies that his engagingly geometric work went on to influence.

According to the author and curator Marina Weinhart, The Responsive Eye exhibition – which featured 123 works by such artists as Victor Vasarely, Bridget Riley and Josef Albers – represented “the height of the Op Art wave”.

And by way of defining Op Art, the exhibition’s curator William C Seitz said of it at the time: “These works exist less as objects to be examined than as generators of perceptual responses, of colors and relationships existing solely in vision. They exert a control over perception capable of arousing delight, anxiety and even vertigo.”

Designed to induce delight more than anxiety and vertigo, you can see a strong Op Art influence and something of Norman Wilkinson’s razzle dazzle camouflage in certain of our new-season shirts, ties, pocket squares and scarves.

Posted by Geoff at 11:41 PM CDT
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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

While looking up information on Brian De Palma's documentary short about The Responsive Eye, I came across a terrificly insightful review by Robert Ham, posted at Network Awesome three years ago. Here's an excerpt:
Say whatever you want to about the school of painting and design known as "op art"...you've already been beaten to the punch by the vox populi caught on camera by Brian De Palma in 1966.

In fact, the majority of the director's documentary account of the opening of the titular Museum of Modern Art exhibit dedicated to perceptual art -- art that, as John Lancaster put it, played with "the interaction between illusion and picture plane, between understanding and seeing" -- is given over to commentary from both artists and spectators about the effectiveness of pieces by Bridget Riley, Josef Albers, and Alexander Liberman. In their collective view, the work was deemed everything from stunning to nauseating. Or, as one interviewee says during the film: "I don't think it's art."

Any other director would have stuck with curator William Seitz and psychologist Rudolph Arnheim as they took them on a tour of the exhibit, teasing out their own interpretations of the art. Instead, De Palma turns the whole piece into one of the wittiest films of his oeuvre as well as a sly commentary on the state of the art world in the '60s. It's a neat trick, and one that he pulls off using the strongest part of his visual arsenal at the time: editing.

His use of jump cuts into dialogue from the interviews echoes the itchy movement of his debut feature The Wedding Party. In that film, he hearkens back to the work of directors like D.W. Griffith and Charlie Chaplin, not to mention the French New Wave filmmakers who were using the same artistic tricks: overly-caffeinated pacing and quick edits between two competing scenes.

With The Responsive Eye, many of the same storytelling devices are brought over to the documentary format. De Palma jumps between the discussions of Seitz and Arnhelm, and the reactions of people at the opening night event. They go by so quickly that the effect is as sometimes disorienting as the art on the walls of MoMa. They are short jabs of punch lines and little visual gags (the woman in an evening gown bending repeatedly at the knees to catch the "movement" of a piece she is looking at).

It's also important to look at the people that De Palma and his camera crew choose to interview for the film. They are an absurd bunch: the bespectacled child who declaims that he wouldn't put the art in his home, the woman dolled up for the night in a completely striped outfit ("The tights are from Macy's, and the dress is from Bloomingdales"), the drunken woman being held aloft by her husband saying, "I loved it," and the coup de grace, the caricature of an English nobleman at the very end, complete with a haughty air about him. And a monocle.

The only people you are meant to take seriously, it seems, are the artists behind the work. In that camp, you get Mon Levinson showing off how he creates the illusion of movement with his pieces, and discussing at the end how excited he was to see it. Best, though, is Josef Albers, who kvetches loudly about how long it has taken his work to be appreciated.

Albers may have a point, but it brings up one of the underlying issues of this film and this exhibit. As Marc Campbell on Dangerous Minds points out, Responsive Eye was "the first significant exhibit of optical art synchronous with and in some cases arising out of the early days of psychedelic culture." i It's amazing, really, that no one in the film addresses this fact. I think De Palma knew that going into the project, and although he doesn't press the issue, the point is simple: these folks just don't get it.

That kind of attitude was De Palma's whole mindset at this early stage of his career. The work he was doing before and after this documentary kicked against the ideas of Hollywood filmmaking. Beyond The Wedding Party, he helped create the two Godardian, politically-driven films, Greetings and Hi Mom!, and the slapstick slasher flick Murder a la Mod. Why would anyone expect him to make a dull documentary about an art exhibit?

Posted by Geoff at 11:58 PM CDT
Updated: Thursday, May 12, 2016 12:08 AM CDT
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Saturday, March 12, 2011
UbuWeb, the independent resource that posts materials for noncommercial and educational purposes, recently uploaded Brian De Palma's 1966 documentary The Responsive Eye, which was filmed at the opening night reception of a now legendary OP ART exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. De Palma shot the film in four hours with two additional cameramen, Gardner Compton and David Moscovitz. De Palma edited the film himself.

Posted by Geoff at 1:04 PM CST
Updated: Wednesday, June 29, 2011 12:17 AM CDT
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