Harry Smith (l923-91)

Early Abstractions (l946-57), 23 minutes

No. 1: A Strange Dream (l946), 2.5 minutes

No. 2: Message from the Sun (1946-48), 2 minutes

No. 3: Interwoven (1947-49), 3.5 minutes

No. 4: Fast Track (1947), 2 minutes

No. 5: Circular Tensions, Homage to Oskar Fischinger (1950), 2.5 minutes

No. 6: "3-D Film" (1948-51), 1.5 minutes (not included in Early Abstractions)

No. 7: Color Study (1952), 5.5 minutes

No. 8 Unknown

No. 9 Unknown

No. 10: Mirror Animations (1957, 1962-76), 3.5


No. 11: Mirror Animations (1957), 1962-76), 8


No. 12: Heaven and Earth Magic Feature (1959- 61), 66 minutes

No. 14: Late Superimpositions (1964), 31 minutes

No. 16: Oz, The Tin Woodman’s Dream (1967), 14.5 minutes

No. 18: Mahagonny (1970-80), 141 minutes (4 screens)

(Filmography from American Magus: Harry Smith, Inanout Press)

Harry Smith was born on the west coast and spent his first three decades there. He began making films in the mid-1940s at the same time as he was assisting Frank Stauffacher who was curating the Art in Cinema series at the San Francisco Museum of Art. Stauffacher sent Smith to Los Angeles to visit with the Whitney brothers, Oskar Fischinger, Gregory Markopoulos, and other experimental film-makers, whose work would subsequently appear on screen in San Francisco. These LA artists made an impact on Smith (who would acknowledge Fischinger in Smith’s No. 5) but Smith charted his own course into cinema, largely through procedures of painting and printing directly onto film. And while his west coast brethren looked into Eastern philosophy, Smith delved into the Kabbala, surrealism, and alchemy. (RH)

For 30 years Harry Smith worked on these movies, secretly, like an alchemist, and he worked out his own formulas and mixtures to produce these fantastic images. You can watch them for pure color enjoyment; you can watch them for motion–Harry Smith’s films never stop moving; or you can watch them for hidden and symbolic meanings, alchemic signs. There are more levels in Harry Smith’s work than in any other film animator I know. Animated cinema–all those Czechs, and Poles, and Yugoslavs, and Pintoffs, and Bosutovs and Hubleys are nothing but makers of cute cartoons. Harry Smith is the only serious film animator working today. His untitled work on alchemy and the creation of the world will remain one of the masterpieces of the animated cinema. But even his smaller works are marked by the same masterful and never failing sense of movement–he most magic quality of Harry Smith’s work.

–Jonas Mekas