Oskar Fischinger: Optical Etudes
January 2, Walter Reade
Lincoln Center's second tribute to animation's bop-bopping history, "Cartoon Musicals II" (December 28 through January 4), showcases everything from Betty Boop's first foray into color to South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut. One of the unparalleled gems is a collection of films from the '30s and '40s by master animator Oskar Fischinger, presented in association with Los Angeles's Center for Visual Music. Fischinger created what he called "absolute animation," inventing techniques to give life to his spectacular visions. Imagine the paintings of Malevich or Kandinsky swirling into psychoactive phantasmagoria, choreographed to symphonic music or jazz, and you'll only begin to understand his achievements. He's not only one of the greatest abstract painters of the 20th century, but also great-granddaddy to the neo-psychedelic boomlet of recent artists like Paper Rad, Jeremy Blake, and Forcefieldnot to mention iTunes Visualizer. In the monochrome Study No. 6, tadpole shapes zip around, transforming into dancing chevrons and lunettes, while Composition in Blue animates clay forms into a three-dimensional proto- Gondry rainbow waltz. Radio Dynamics, presented in a new print, may be Fischinger's masterwork: A silent symphony of pulsating concentric circles and fluttering trapezoids, this multichromatic wonder pushes animation from mere entertainment into the realm of spiritual ecstasy.