Film #5 “Circular Tensions” (Homage to Oskar Fischinger) from “Early Abstractions”

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"Smith, a known eccentric who considered himself an anthropologist rather than an artist, began making films after moving from Washington to the Bay Area in 1945. It was at Art in Cinema—a series of avant-garde film screenings presented by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art from 1946 to 1953—that Smith gained exposure to abstract experimental films, including those of Oskar Fischinger. This influential series, organized by brothers Frank and Jack Stauffacher, and Richard Foster, screened abstract and nonnarrative films from New York, Europe, and California. Inspired, Smith sought training and equipment from his friend Hy Hirsh, a generous photographer, cinematographer, and avant-garde filmmaker. Smith’s early experiments utilized a batik-like process applied directly to the film, with results that graphically and organizationally reference the complex structures and improvisations of the artist’s beloved bebop jazz. The colorful, madly exuberant, prepsychedelic Circular Tensions represents a departure from the cruder techniques of Smith’s early work and paved the way for the playful pictorial collages of his later films. He recollected that through watching Fischinger work he learned the discipline and concentration required to make the leap to more sophisticated productions. Smith’s and Fischinger’s independent avant-garde creations set the stage for a generation of filmmakers whose artistic gifts would be embraced by a mainstream industry"—Louise Sandhaus, Earthquakes, Mudslides, Fires & Riots: California and Graphic Design, 1936-1986, pp.148

Order: No. 5: Circular Tensions, Homage to Oskar Fischinger (1950), No. 7: Color Study (1952)