Stan VanDerBeek: Guild & Greyshkul

By Meade, Fionn | Artforum International, January 2009 | Go to article overview

Stan VanDerBeek: Guild & Greyshkul


Meade, Fionn, Artforum International


When Stan VanDerBeek (1927-1984) wrote in a 1961 manifesto ("The Cinema Delimina--Films from the Underground") that artists were increasingly "abandoning the logics of aesthetics, springing fullblown into a juxtaposed and simultaneous world that ignores the one-point-perspective mind, the one-point-perspective lens," he could well have been describing the vertiginous presentation of this retrospective of his own work. In the main space, three film loops, six 35-mm slide projections (three looped and three still), and an image of a collage were projected on screens clustered in front of one wall, their sound tracks cacophonous. Forty-seven framed collages lining the opposite wall, photocopies of a mural by VanDerBeek, and a two-channel video completed the display.

Abolishing any pretense of sustained, individual viewing, the show's seventeen short films, spanning 1957 to 1972, were projected alongside Found Forms. 2008, a "multi-projection film performance" presented in 1969 and reconfigured here. The montagelike installation could have been fractious and heavy-handed, but instead served as an intimate demonstration of VanDerBeek's layered compositional strategies and seemed to argue, as he did, that people can take in, associate, and categorize an excess of simultaneous imagery--here both moving and still, amusing and harrowing. Sara and Johannes VanDerBeek, cofounders of the gallery and established artists in their own right, organized the show, and their initially distracting yet ultimately analytical and resolute layout captured the innovative spirit of their father's multifaceted work.

For Found Forms (the most complicated and structurally ambitious of the pieces), an "electronic assemblage" of newsreels and miscellaneous footage was projected on a central screen flanked by slide projections of figurative sculptures and journalistic photos documenting contemporary conflicts; completing the multiscreen composition were computer-generated mandala-like drawings that slowly rotated to the left and right. As the nonsynchronous groupings of images repeated their circuit, a haunting photograph of battered civil rights activists might have found a recombinant reading with, say, a Grecian torso and sumo wrestlers. …

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