LONG ISLAND CITY, N.Y.- MoMA PS1
pays tribute to George Kuchar (1942-2011), one of the most prolific and influential American filmmakers of the last half century, with a new exhibition of his film, photography, painting, and comic illustration. Organized by MoMA PS1 Curator Peter Eleey and initiated with the artist prior to his death in September, George Kuchar: Pagan Rhapsodies includes more than thirty of Kuchar's films, celebrating the prolific and exuberant practice of this visionary who found high drama in low culture and the vulgarities of everyday life.
"Making movies is a magical enterprise," Kuchar said, "exorcising a lot of personal devils and charting your own perversities." He began his film career as a teenager, making no-budget 8mm flicks with his twin brother, Mike, in their Bronx apartment before being introduced to the underground scene in New York in the early 1960s. The Kuchars' family members and friends starred in their early films, which employed make-shift props, costumes, and lighting in energetic homages to the big-studio productions the brothers consumed at local movie theaters. Though he moved to San Francisco in 1971 to teach, Kuchar continued over the next four decades to actively involve those around him in his filmmaking, setting up a studio with his students and making diaries of visits with friends. An early adopter of video, he pioneered the low-fi, handheld aesthetic now ubiquitous on the Internet, tirelessly and inventively mashing up styles and conventions while "grinding out pictures for the nonexistent masses."
The man who plainly noted that "making movies can be a pretty offensive and humiliating endeavor" was also frank about his ambition to be a "plop in the bowl" rather than a "flash in the pan." Though an expert cinephile, Kuchar's purview was far broader than film history and craft, and more prosaic. Whether celebrating Hollywood clichés from the back lot of his campus studio or contemplating the lurid, romantic violence of a tornado from a motel room in Oklahoma, life was Kuchar's primary subject. He documented his own in intimate, often physical, detail, and incorporated everyone and everything around him, including his pets. Kuchar and his generous approach to his art offer instruction for life as well as film. "It is important not to be well prepared," he advised students. "Never have auditions
always mix styles in reckless abandon
makeup should be used to full advantage."