Eye Filmmuseum in Amsterdam is preparing an exhibition on the celebrated masters and canonical works of avant-garde film in the 1960s in the United States. The title of the exhibition is Underground – American Avant-Garde Film in the 1960s, which references the term “underground film” as coined by the influential film critic and painter Manny Farber.

Curated by Jaap Guldemond (Director of Exhibitions) and Mark Paul Meyer (Senior Curator of Eye Collection Centre), the exhibition presents works by some of the most influential film artists of the 1960s: Yoko Ono, Jonas Mekas, Hollis Frampton, Carolee Schneemann, Andy Warhol, Gunvor Nelson and Bruce Conner among others. Films and video installations will be on display, flanked by cases containing objects and props used by the filmmakers, all of them prefaced with introductory fragments from documentaries which will contextualize the whole scene as well as the zeitgeist of the period when these films were made.

Carolee Schneemann, Fuses, 1967. Courtesy of the artist.

This well-known era that saw the blossoming of film art was primarily associated with The New American Cinema Group, which was established in 1961 on the initiative of Jonas Mekas, Andy Warhol, Shirley Clarke and other prominent cineastes. These artists were reacting to what they perceived as “an official cinema… that is morally corrupt, esthetically obsolete, thematically superficial, temperamentally boring…” The Group evolved into The Film-Makers Cooperative, becoming the first artist-run organization devoted to the dissemination of moving image art.

Also in 1961, on the West Coast of the United States, Canyon Cinema began in filmmaker Bruce Baillie’s Canyon, California backyard. At this early stage it was a forum for film artists to share work with each other and the community. In 1966, the filmmakers associated with this initiative founded Canyon Cinema Co-op as a distribution company owned and operated by filmmaker members. Significant artists associated with the early years of Canyon Cinema included Chick Strand, Robert Nelson, Bruce Conner and others.

Andy Warhol, Empire, 1964. Courtesy of the artist.

The endeavors of these pioneering filmmakers on both coasts revitalized film as an art form in the United States. Their involvement in the rise of independent production practices allowed them to engage in more personalized forms of filmmaking, which afforded greater freedom of artistic expression. The influence of this golden generation of film artists has been felt all over the world and their best-known works are central reference points. As the critic and historian P. Adams Sitney wrote in his defining study of the American Avant-Garde, this was Visionary Film.

Eye Filmmuseum was established in 1946 as the Dutch Historical Film Archive. It is dedicated to the collection and curation of films of great artistic and historical value, as well as encouraging the development and creation of new modes of cinematic expression in the field of moving images. Underground – American Avant-Garde Film in the 1960s is scheduled to open on October 13, 2024 and runs through January 5, 2025. For updates on the exhibition check the Eye Filmmuseum site.

The link has been copied!