Few artists can be said to have had a greater influence on the history of experimental cinema, queer cinema, and performance art than Jack Smith (1932–1989). Smith was an antic performer who played to the cheap seats, flamboyantly and tragicomically overwrought in the manner of Theda Bara, Maria Montez, Gloria Swanson, and Dorothy Lamour. His style of camp blended Hollywood orientalism, burlesque, kitsch, polymorphous sexuality, and social satire. Caustically funny, politically trenchant, and defiantly intolerant of intolerance, he provoked police raids and censorial judges, and created a beautiful, haunting, poignant, outrageous, orgiastic body of work that transformed the artistic landscape of the New York underground—a culture also being shaped in profoundly radical ways by Andy Warhol, Tony Conrad, Ken Jacobs, Ron Rice, the Kuchars, Jonas Mekas, the Velvet Underground, Charles Ludlam, and Susan Sontag—as well as inspiring a subsequent generation of artists, including Richard Foreman, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Christophe Schlingensief, Laurie Anderson, Derek Jarman, Nan Goldin, Robert Wilson Jack Goldstein, Mike Kelley, Pipilotti Rist, Vaginal Davis, Cindy Sherman, Guy Maddin, Ryan Trecartin, John Waters, Vivienne Dick, The Cockettes, John Bock, and countless others.
Presented in conjunction with To Save and Project: The Ninth MoMA International Festival of Film Preservation, this retrospective celebrates the Museum’s acquisition of 11 newly restored 16mm prints, including Smith’s three feature films, Flaming Creatures (1962–63), Normal Love (1963–65), and No President (1967–70), and eight shorter pieces: Jungle Island, Respectable Creatures, I Was A Male Yvonne DeCarlo, Song For Rent, Hot Air Specialists, Overstimulated, Scotch Tape, and Yellow Sequence. On November 13, legendary performer Mario Montez, star of Flaming Creatures and Normal Love, introduces the opening day screening. (He also makes a special appearance at the Museum of the Moving Image that evening at 6:30 p.m.) Also presented in the retrospective is Robert Siodmak’s Cobra Woman (1944), starring Smith’s muse, Maria Montez.
Organized by Joshua Siegel, Associate Curator, Department of Film.