New Artist Member: Harry Smith

Posted December 4th, 2023 in Announcements, New Acquisitions, New Films, News / Events

Canyon Cinema is pleased to welcome the films of Harry Smith to the collection!

“Harry Smith (1923-1991) was an artist whose activities and interests put him at the center of the mid 20th-century American avant-garde. Although best known as a filmmaker and musicologist, he frequently described himself as a painter, and his varied projects called on his skills as an anthropologist, linguist, and translator. He had a lifelong interest in the occult and esoteric fields of knowledge, leading him to speak of his art in alchemical and cosmological terms.” (Harry Smith Archives)

As Smith himself explains: “My cinematic excreta is of four varieties: batiked abstractions made directly on film between 1939 and 1946; optically printed non-objective studies composed around 1950; semi-realistic animated collages made as part of my alchemical labors of 1957 to 1962; and chronologically superimposed photographs of actualities formed since the latter year. All these works have been organized in specific patterns derived from the interlocking beats of the respiration, the heart and the EEG Alpha component and should be observed together in order, or not at all, for they are valuable works, works that will live forever — they made me gray.”

16mm prints of two of Harry Smith’s films are now available to rent, courtesy of Anthology Film Archives, including:

Film Nos. 1-5, 7, & 10 (Early Abstractions) (c. 1965, 23 minutes, color, sound, 16mm)

c. 1946-57, compiled c. 1965

Preserved by Anthology Film Archives, New York

No. 1: Hand-drawn animation of dirty shapes-the history of the geologic period reduced to
orgasm length.

No. 2: Batiked animation, etc., etc. The action takes place either inside the sun or in Z├╝rich,

No. 3: Batiked animation made of dead squares, the most complex hand-drawn film imaginable.

No. 4: Black and white abstractions of dots and grillwork made in a single night.

No. 5: Color abstraction. Homage to Oscar Fischinger — a sequel to No. 4

No. 7: Optically printed Pythagoreanism in four movements supported on squares, circles,
grillwork and triangles with an interlude concerning an experiment.

No. 10: An exposition of Buddhism and the Kaballa in the form of a collage. The final scene
shows Aquaric mushrooms (not in No. 11) growing on the moon while the Hero and Heroine
row by on a cerebrum.

– Harry Smith

Film No. 11 (Mirror Animations) (c. 1957, 3.5 minutes, color, sound, 16mm)

Restored by Anthology Film Archives, New York

“A commentary on and exposition of No. 10… A famous film.” – Harry Smith