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Artists

Jonas Mekas Biography

Jonas Mekas was born in a small village of Semeniskiai, Lithuania, in 1922. In 1944 he and his brother Adolfas Mekas were captured by the Nazis and taken to the labor camp on Elmshorn, Germany. Once the war was over, he pursued a degree in philosophy at the University of Mainz.

In the late 1940s, the UN refugee organization relocated both the brothers to Brooklyn, New York City. Roughly two months after arriving in New York, Jonas Mekas borrowed money to buy himself a Bolex camera and recorded his life’s moments.

Jonas Mekas Biography

Mekas developed a keen interest in the American Avant-Garde film movement. In 1954 he started Film Culture Magazine with his brother. It became the most notable and important film publication in the U.S.

In the late 1950s, he started his Movie Journal column in the Village Voice, and in 1962 he founded the Film-Maker’s cooperative. In 1964 he created Film-Makers’ Cinematheque, which then turned into Anthology Film Archives. It is one of the biggest and major repositories of avant-garde cinema, and it is a massive screening venue.

His work and contribution to the cinematic world dubbed him the name ‘The Godfather of American Avant-Garde Cinema.’ Besides, film making he was also an avid poet and would sometimes paint and draw.

Types of Work

Below are the most legendary avant-garde films made by Jonas Mekas (2000)

As I Was Moving Ahead Occasionally, I Saw Brief Glimpses of Beauty

This movie is an experimental documentary type of film which is over 4 hours long. It is considered the best avant-garde film in the world of cinema. This movie shows us a glimpse of Jonas Mekas’ life and features his private home film footage of over 30 years.

Lost, Lost, Lost (1976)

This film is a documentary that depicts the poetic side of him. It shows the life experiences of immigrants in New York and the immigrant community. It was a never-before-done type of film because much of what went in the life of immigrants of foreigners was not documented in those times.

Walden (1968)

Another epic film directed by Jonas Mekas is Walden. This film is a concoction of diaries, sketches, and notes by Jonas. It shows the poetic side of him, which is depicted in mostly all his films. It is a great way to start the journey of avant-garde cinematic experience.

Out-Takes from the Life of a Happy Man(2012)

This is one of the most recent works of Jonas Mekas. The piano improvisations in the film take it to another level, and it is evident that even after all these years, he can make a brilliant cinema.

Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania (1972)

This is a beautiful film that documents his memories of his journey to his home country, Lithuania. It is divided into three segments and shows his great camera skills and poetic editing.

This list perhaps doesn’t do justice to his cinematic accomplishments. He has worked with some of the great filmmakers and artists.

Subject Matter

Jonas Mekas’ films both in style and subject matter call attention to the composition of the avant-garde community. His work shows that there is a cooperation of the entire art world when it comes to individual projects.

His movie Walden brought the New York art and avant-garde film community together and shone a light on his work. Mekas states that his shooting style is based on his daily interaction in the community.

He said, “During the last fifteen years I got so entangled with the independently-made film that I didn’t have any time left for myself, for my own film-making–between Film-Makers’ Cooperative, Film-Makers’ Cinematheque, Film Culture magazine, and now Anthology Film Archives. I mean, I didn’t have any long stretches of time to prepare a script, then take months to shoot, then to edit, etc.’

He also talks about the spontaneity of his film making “All my personal work became like notes. If I can film one minute- I film one minute. If I can film ten seconds- I film ten seconds’.

His epic autobiography Walden covered his experience in American from 1949 to 1984. It is a classic autobiography that perfectly depicts an artist in exile, creating a new home.

Legacy of Jonas Mekas

He has published over 20 books of poetry and prose. They have been translated into multiple languages. His poetry in the Lithuanian language is part of the country’s classic literature, and his films are shown in major museums worldwide.

He is credited for making films with a diary-style or diaristic cinema. He was an academic and taught at the International Center for Photography, New York University, MIT, and the New School for Social Research.

Jonas Mekas received a Grand Prize Award at the Venice Film Festival in 1963 for his film The Brig. He got many awards for his films including Scenes from the Life of George Maciunas (1992) of Fluxus fame, Sleepless Nights Stories (2011), Letter from Greenpoint (2005), Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania (1972), Walden (1969), Lost LostLost (1975), Out-takes from the Life of a Happy Man(2012) among others.

Mekas had his work exhibited at the Serpentine Gallery, the ModernaMuseet (Stockholm), the Centre Pompidou, Muséed’Artmoderne de la Ville de Paris, ), PS1 Contemporary Art Center MoMA, the Museum Ludwig in Cologne, and the Venice Biennale, and the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.

Jonas Mekas married Hollis Melton in 1974, and they had two children Sebastion and Oona. He worked and lived in New York City until his demise on 23rd January 2019 at the age of 96

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Artists

George Maciunas Biography

George Maciunas was born on 8TH November 1931. He was an American artist of Lithuanian origin born in Kansas. He was a founder and the central coordinator of the Fluxus Movement.

Fluxus is an international community of architects, artists, designers, and composers.

He was famous for organizing and performing early happenings and assembling several influential artist’s objects.

George Maciunas’s father was a Lithuanian engineer and an architect trained in Berlin, whereas his mother was a Russian-born dancer who worked with the Lithuanian National Opera.

After leaving Lithuania to avoid being arrested the Red Army in, George’s family lived briefly in Frankfurt, Germany, and then in 1948, immigrated to the United States. They lived in a nice area in Long Island, New York.

George Maciunas Biography

In the United States, George Maciunas showed interest in Arts. He studied graphic design, architecture, and art at Cooper Union, at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburg. He later studied Art History at the NYU’S Institute of Fine Arts and specialized in Siberian and European art of migrations.

He studied for 11 years between 1949 and 1660 and successfully completed his studies. He developed a fascination with the subject of Art History. He began his first project, which was 12 feet in height. It was a historical chart that categorized all the past styles, schools, artists, and movements from the period 1955 to 1960.

The project was not finished, yet he published three different versions of the avant-garde history. The first one was in 1966, and Fluxus was the central point.

He also worked with Raoul Hausmann, who was the original member of Berlin Dada, and asked George not to use ‘neo-dada’ for nascent movement and advised him to use ‘Fluxus’ instead.

Type of Art Work

George Maciunas has produced some legendary artworks during his time, but the most memorable ones are:

Flux Year Box 1967.

During 1967 George Maciunas assembled Fluxus boxes and Flux kits, which are small boxes containing objects and cards assembled and designed by various artists such as Yoko Ono, George Brecht, and Christo.

The first planned box was known as Fluxus 1. It was a wooden box with Maciunas’s colleagues’ artworks. Due to the production issues, the publication was pushed to 1964. Therefore, Brecht’s Water Yam became the first Flux box to ever be published in 1963.

GEORGE MACIUNAS (1931-1978). The U.S.A. SURPASSES ALL THE GENOCIDE RECORDS

This was one of the most moving pieces of art created by George Maciunas. It was a poster of a flag, which was one of the publications of Fluxus. The art piece was not signed because George wanted it to be anonymous. The poster was very famous and widely distributed. It was illustrated in several books on political posters.

George wanted this poster to have a grave impact on the minds of the people.

Subject Matter

Professor Kristine Stiles of Duke University has discussed Fluxus being part of the movement of global humanism that is achieved through breaking down the boundaries of the cultural norms, political conventions, and artistic media. George Maciunas’s work always revolved around the aspects mentioned. He could see into the future, and it showed in his artwork.

The movement, such as Dada and Futurism, showed a blurring of cultural conventions and was done by Fluxus artists. The revolutions taking place in the 60s was the inspiration behind the artistic expression of Fluxus and George.

The definition of Flux is ‘to flow.’ The artists in Fluxus wanted to reorder the production temples and reveal the ethereal extraordinary things that were undisclosed due to the societal pressure.

George’s work was influenced by the happenings at the Black Mountain College, which involved David Tudor, John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Robert Rauschenberg, and others.

Other influences were the Nouveaux Realistes; the concept art of Henry Flynt, and the notion of the ready made by Marcel Duchamp.

Fluxus resembled its sibling artistic movements like minimalism and Pop Art. The artists in Fluxus, including George Maciunas, expressed counter-cultural sentiments. He wanted the art to be deaestheticized and decommodified. He wanted art to be an experience to be valued.

Those who value originality of art over the imitated version re-conceptualized the subject matter. They used musical concerts, publications, and Olympic games to show the nature of the performance.

George Maciunas said, “If man could experience the world, the concrete world surrounding him (from mathematical ideas to physical matter) in the same way he experiences art, there would be no need for art, artists and similar ‘nonproductive’ elements.”

Fluxus has been described by Ken Friedman, a scholar, and Fluxus artist, as “an active philosophy of experience that sometimes only takes the form of art.”

The Legacy of George Maciunas

George’s work has been displayed in many major museums worldwide with some of the archives in The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, The Whitney Museum of American Art, and The Getty Research Institute, Kaunas Picture Gallery which has the Fluxus Room, and Staatsgalerie Stuttgart.

The great avant-garde film maker Jonas Mekas created “Scenes from the Life of George Maciunas” a 16 minute film.

The Museum of Modern Art recently got Fluxus collection from Gilbert and Lila Silverman. It is the most extensive collection of Fluxus and George Maciunas; works, around 10,000 artworks.

Dartmouth College organized a touring exhibition where George Maciunas’ work was part of the ‘Fluxus and the Essential Questions of Life’ in New York University’s Grey Gallery in 2011. It was also exhibited at the University of Michigan’s Museum of Art in the spring of 2012

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Artists

Paula Scher Biography

Paula Scher has played a vital role in the ‘retro’ movement of the 80s. Influenced by her surroundings, Paula Scher executes her high-energy designs that reflect the diverse environment and cacophony of New York City.

She is considered the ‘master conjurer of the instantly familiar,’ and in her designs, she often blurs the lines between fine art and pop culture.

Paula Scher Biography

Paula Scher was born in Washington, D.C., United States, on 6th October 1948. As a child, she had always shown a keen interest in design.

She would spend most of her time alone in her room drawing. Even now, she feels that painting and drawing allow her to escape everyday life.

As a small child, she would wonder about the strange cropping of the faces on the South Pacific’s Cover page.

She states, “As a child, I wanted to be a singer, dancer, piano player, and bareback rider. When I got to be older and realized I wasn’t a beauty, I decided I wanted to be an artist. I didn’t know what a designer was – yet.”

Paula Scher doesn’t come from the family of artists. Her father was a photogrammetric engineer and engineered all the government maps.

He invented a device known as ‘stereo templates,’ which is used in Google Maps today. He was not too happy with the idea of his daughter going to an Art School.

Despite her father not supporting her going to Art School, she says he’s the main inspiration behind her painting maps. Paula’s mother was also unsure about her attending Art school. She made Paula complete a teaching certificate so she would have something to fall back on in case her career in design didn’t take off.

Paula Scher went to a high school in Washington and was the ‘school artist.’ She would make comic strips and paper dolls for her friends. After graduating from high school, she followed her love for design by attending the Tyler School of Art in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania.

She spent her time experimenting with printmaking, drawing, and designing but didn’t feel like she had a style of her own until she took the Graphic Design course in her junior year.

Her teacher gave her the Basel Basics, which involved observing the layout and shape a particular design. She would move the black square over a white background to study the visual messages and forms. She also learned the Swiss International Style of typography. Helvetica on a grid.

Paula was inspired by PushPin Group. She described them as her design heroes. She was fond of their work, which involved illustration with typography and the use of lettering from the historical periods.

She loved trying out different types of Victorian graphics and wood type as well. She completed her studies at the Tyler School of Art in 1970 and obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts.

Paula Scher Work

Paula Scher has worked on thousands of incredible designs serving various purposes, and some artworks were more notable than others. Here are some of the most iconic artworks by the artists.

CBS Record (1979)

In the 70s and the early 80s, Paula Scher’s work was influenced by historical art movements. The CBS record poster had the tonality of Dada, Russian constructivism, and futurist style.

According to the graphic designer herself, wood types were used to make the poster. She formed and angled the letters into a Russian constructivist method and then printed it on kraft paper.

This was the design that shot her to fame and popularity. After the poster was released, she was described as a postmodern designer. Many others followed suit until she began using a simpler, more modern approach for which she is well-known for today.

Swatch Swiss Ad Campaign Poster (1984)

After Scher co-founded a company with Koppel, they immediately landed a gig with Swatch. This was another big design success of Scher’s career. The design poster was controversial because many claimed it was a ‘borrowed style’ from previous art movements.

However, Paula confirmed that the poster design was a parody or another poster. There were extreme similarities between her Swatch Swiss poster and Herbert Matter poster. This was one of the reasons why this ad design became one of her most famous works.

Windows 8

One of the most recent works by Paula is the rebranding of the Windows 8 logo. It brings back the original logo, which was a window. She changed the four colored symbols to a simpler but a geometric shape. She asked Microsoft why their symbol looked like a flag when they had windows in their name.

Scher changed the flat design to have more dimensionality that had actual motion.

Other famous works by Paula Scher are:

  • The Public Theater
  • New York City Ballet

Subject Matter

Paula Scher is best known for logo designs, album covers, and posters. In her paintings, she portrays large maps with intricate letters that indicate societal and political connections between regional borders and countries.

She says, “The job of the designer is to make things understandable, usable, accessible, enjoyable, and important to a public that involves the public.”

She has managed to develop identity and branding systems, environmental graphics, promotional materials, and packaging and publication designs for a lot of different clients such as Microsoft, Bloomberg, Bausch+ Lomb, Shake Shack, Coca-Cola, Perry Ellis, the Sundance Institute, Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Museum of Modern Art, and many others.

Legacy of Paula Scher

Paula Scher has been part of the art and design industry for over 30 years. She has developed her work via painting, design, and educating. She is known to push the boundaries and give it her all when it comes to her work.

Her work has been displayed at leading galleries alongside leading members of the Fluxus Art Movement such as George Maciunas and Yoko Ono.

Paula became the first female Principle at the Pentagram Design consultancy in their New York office in 1991.