Since the 1950s, Stan Brakhage, probably the most prolific and preeminent American independent filmmaker, has been pursuing what he calls the "art of vision," using processes of layering, repetition of elements, accumulations of details, juxtapositions of unrelated images, and non-narrative sequences in his experimental films. While many of his works draw from autobiographical experiences, with images of family members and events from his daily life, others are limited in scope and draw from the properties of filmmaking itself.
In the 1970s Brakhage and other filmmakers, such as James Herbert and Andrew Noren, intensified their explorations of cinema's formal properties. The richest areas of investigation were two of film's basic means of expression: the apparent motility of light and the resultant texture of the transient image. Brakhage's Text of Light is the purest of the astonishing works made by these filmmakers. The spare but vital subject of the film is light, and nothing but light. To compose this "text of light," Brakhage examined light refracted through a glass ashtray. Moving and changing color, light offers the viewer a motion picture that percolates vigorously.
Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 247.