Philip Martin

Pat O'neill

28 Sep - 16 Nov 2013

Still from
Pat O'Neill
Horizontal Boundaries, 2008
35mm color Dolby SR 1.33:1
23 minutes
Horizontal Boundaries
28 September - 16 November 2013

For its first exhibition at 2732, Cherry and Martin is pleased to present "Horizontal Boundaries" (2008) by Pat O'Neill. This is the first time "Horizontal Boundaries" has been projected in a gallery exhibition in Los Angeles. O'Neill's 23 minute film is also currently on view at the Walker Art Center (Minneapolis, MN) through September 29.

For more than 40 years, Pat O'Neill has explored the materiality of film. As Manohla Dargis of the New York Times notes, in the late 1960s O'Neill, "introduced optical printing into his work, a step that allowed him to maximize the medium's plasticity several decades before computer-based composition systems made image manipulation widely accessible. In an optical printer, filmed images are copied onto raw film stock, allowing the filmmaker to subject the images to an array of photographic techniques, including fades and multiple exposures. Optical printers have various industrial uses, but one distinct advantage for film artists is that they allow them to manipulate live-action images the way animators do."

O'Neill's late 60s work reveals a keen interest in the possibilities of expanded photographic practice. A friend and peer of Robert Heinecken, with whom he studied at UCLA, O'Neill was also in close conversation with the Bay Area-based Bruce Conner, East Coast filmmakers like Paul Sharits and Hollis Frampton, and a diverse group of LA-based artists loosely experimenting with the interaction between photography, installation and film (that included people like Carl Cheng and Robert Whitman). O'Neill is lauded as a pioneer in avant-garde film. Early works like "Screen" (1969), now in the collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art, were intended to be presented in art galleries. These pieces explore not only the physicality of film stock, but also the objectness of film, the projected image and its framing. O'Neill's intense physical manipulation of film stock pre-figured many special effects that would later become commonplace in the movie industry. Dargis goes on to point out that, "Los Angeles has also long been home to artists for whom film is neither a blood sport nor the means to a very lucrative end, but a deeply personal expression. One such is Pat O'Neill, a filmmaker who has brushed conceptual elbows with such radically different personalities as the avant-garde pioneer Maya Deren and that consummate commercial moviemaker George Lucas."

"Horizontal Boundaries" takes on Los Angeles as an uncertain subject, a displaced location in space and time. Shot in and around the city and other locations in California with "the intent to produce "synthetic" depictions of locations made up of multiple and disparate parts," O'Neill combines the visual effects with a visceral soundtrack that demands the total attention of the viewer. As O'Neill writes, the goal is to "present an image that is both clearly understood and obviously altered. Altering the imagery from its original photographic state raises inevitable questions concerning its reception: What are we to believe? How is a representation changed by proximity with another? How does contradiction, itself, represent our experience?" And goes on to point out that, "My films share some of the concerns of other experimental filmmakers worldwide: defining parameters for the representation of space and time, exploiting personal experience as metaphor, using archival materials in a restated context."

"The title 'Horizontal Boundaries'," says O'Neill, "refers to the divisions between individual frames arranged one above the other on motion picture film. When 35mm film is projected, it may be seated in the projector's gate in such a way as to reveal, rather than hide, the frame line. This results in an image made of parts of two frames. This artifact is utilized in some shots as an editing device, with the image moving up screen or down screen while continuing to observe temporal continuity. It is also an anxious farewell to the motion picture technology of the twentieth century: celluloid, sprocket holes, silver, dyes, frame lines, dust, and abrasions. It is a hand-made film, at every step in its gathering, ordering, and composition."

Pat O'Neill's work has been seen in live performances and screenings in museums internationally. His work has been the focus of solo and group exhibitions at ZKM Center for Art and Media (Karlsrhue, Germany); Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris, France); Tate Liverpool (Liverpool, UK); Vancouver Art Gallery (Vancouver, BC); Museum of Modern Art (New York, NY); Jewish Museum, (New York, NY); The Kitchen (New York, NY); Walker Art Center (Minneapolis, MN); San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (San Francisco, CA); Museum of Contemporary Art (Los Angeles, CA); and Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Los Angeles, CA). His work has been featured in such important exhibitions as "Electric Art" (1969, University of California, Los Angeles); 1991 Whitney Biennial of American Art (1991, New York, NY); and "Art in Los Angeles: 1955-1985" (2005, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France). Pat O'Neill lives and works in Los Angeles.

Tags: Bruce Conner, Maya Deren, Hollis Frampton, Robert Heinecken, Pat O'neill, Paul Sharits, Robert Whitman