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A vulgar, provocatively slapdash corollary to assemblages by avant-garde film artists Bruce Conner and Ken Jacobs, The Movie Orgys appearance at MOMA enlarges received histories of avant-garde film practice. So too Uruguayan artist Lidia García Milláns three-minute, jazz-scored poured-painted abstraction Color (1958), rediscovered by TSAPs edgy analogue, the NYU Orphan Film Project, and painter Agnes Martins lone completed and largely forgotten film, Gabriel, preserved by MOMA in cooperation with the Pace Gallery. First shown in 1977, Martins unfashionably romantic, even simpleminded, feature-length study of a child navigating the mountains and streams of a sublime Western landscapeas accompanied by intermittent bursts of Bachconfounded partisans of the artists stringent, minimalist canvases, who naturally expected something closer to that aestheticperhaps something akin to the structural cinema of Hollis Frampton or Michael Snow.
The Movie Orgy might be artless, but it is scarcely naïve; Gabriel is its opposite, with a highly sophisticated visual artist making earnestly amateur, if not primitive, use of 16mm film. Martins acceptance of the mediums intrinsic qualities and somewhat maddening emphasis on duration (if not her assertion that her subject is happiness, innocence, and beauty) brings her close to early Warhol. Indeed, with its shaky handheld camera, end flares, evident film grain, and occasional soft focus, Gabriel could not be anything other than 16mm. Good art or bad, its presence is essential to the TSAP worldview: Celluloid lives!
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