Pat O’Neill has been deeply involved in Los Angeles culture since the
late 1960’s. A founding father of the city’s avant-garde film scene,
an influential professor at CalArts and an optical effects pioneer, he
is best known for his short works from the early 1960’s onwards which
are highly graphic, layered and reflexive assemblages based on a mastery
of optical printing techniques.
In O’Neill’s films boundaries fade, narrative collapses and layers of
imagery draw the viewer simultaneously towards and away from linear
meaning. O’Neill has combined found footage with experimental montage
and compositing techniques to create a graphic language that deals with
how different, often disparate elements assembled together in the frame
relate to one another. His innovative optical techniques anticipated
our digital landscape well before its time.
Several of his many avant garde films produced between 1963 and 2006
are considered classics (especially 7362 (1967), Runs Good (1970), Saugus Series (1974), Water and Power (1989, Trouble in the Image
(1996), and The Decay of Fiction (2002). Water and Power, his first
35 mm. feature, which journeys through a California of imaginary
intensity, was the Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner in 1990 and hailed
as a touchstone for filmmaking in the future. All his work from that
decade on has been executed in 35 mm and relied upon the optical printer
for principal production.
Throughout his career he has gained an international following with
recent retrospectives shown at the Tate Modern, the Whitney Museum, and
the Centre Pompidou. In addition he has received the Maya Daren Award
from AFI and the Persistence of Vision Award from the San Francisco Film
Festival along with grants from the Guggenheim and the Rockefeller
foundations. In 2004-06, 40 years of his work in film, drawing,
sculpture, printmaking and photography was the subject of two major
exhibitions, one at the Santa Monica Museum of Art and the other at
Cornerhouse in Manchester, England. In his latest show this spring at
Rosamund Felsen’s Gallery, (Santa Monica, CA) he displayed his first
prototypes for 3-d sculptural composites in an installation setting.