This past Thanksgiving I had the privilege of taking part in a time-honored New York City tradition, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Posts by Jenny He
The inspiration for MoMA’s upcoming Lillian Gish retrospective came about during the planning of the publication Modern Women: Women Artists at The Museum of Modern Art. When I was asked to write an essay on a film artist for the book, actress Lillian Gish quickly came to mind. Not only is she integral to the history of film, but also to the history of film collecting at MoMA. She was an early champion of the Department of Film’s preservation efforts, and she was instrumental in getting her frequent collaborator D. W. Griffith to give his films to the Museum.
It was love at first sight for Tim Burton and stop-motion animation. At an early age, Burton was drawn to films such as Nathan Juran’s 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957) and Don Chaffey’s Jason and the Argonauts (1963), which featured innovative animation by special effects master Ray Harryhausen. Burton responded to the sense of wonder the technique conjured in its audiences and was inspired to create his own stop-motion animated films, such as a 1971 super-8mm short featuring cavemen and dinosaur figures (on view in the MoMA gallery exhibition) that invokes When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (1970, directed by Val Guest, and animated by Jim Danforth).
This year’s Academy Awards telecast paid tribute to horror films—a genre cited by the presenters as often neglected by the Academy—with a clip reel that featured select masterworks of cinema by directors such as Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, and Roman Polanski. As I watched the montage, I caught glimpses from Beetlejuice (1988), Edward Scissorhands (1990), and Sleepy Hollow (1999). Although I found their inclusion to be a bit incongruous among films like The Exorcist, Carrie, Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream, The Ring, and The Blair Witch Project, it nevertheless reaffirmed the popular perception of Tim Burton as a dark, gothic, and macabre filmmaker. Certainly, with Tim’s affinity for skeletons, graveyards, severed heads, and iron maidens—some of the recurrent motifs in his work—the classification of his films into the horror genre would surprise few. However, I propose another genre to be considered when examining Tim’s oeuvre: the musical film.
As we approach the midpoint of the five-month Tim Burton exhibition (November 22, 2009–April 26, 2010), I am reflecting on what may be our visitors’ first impressions of the show. Hopefully those who came to MoMA familiar with Tim’s films—whether they know him as the director responsible for cult favorite Edward Scissorhands (1990), the imaginative and innovative creator of The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), the mischievous mind behind the irreverent Mars Attacks! (1996), or the filmmaker who brought the tale of tonsorial terror that is Sweeney Todd (2007) to the big screen—were pleasantly surprised to find another Tim Burton on display alongside the anticipated props and storyboards. Approximately 70 percent of the works in the exhibition had never been published or shown in public, and it is these works—projects both personal and professional, realized on paper and canvas, or via installations and sculptures—that give visitors a view of Tim as illustrator, cartoonist, photographer, and writer of verse, among other creative roles. These diverse works are united by their intimate, subjective nature; each conveys Tim’s distinctive way of viewing his world and the characters who populate it. The revelation of the private art of Tim Burton to MoMA’s visitors may be similar to my own personal revelation during our first meeting with Tim at his studio in London almost two years ago….
One of the perks of having an exhibition on view is the excuse to go into the Museum’s galleries every day (one of my curatorial responsibilities is to regularly check on my exhibitions). After poring over the 700+ works in the Tim Burton gallery exhibition, I often make it a point to visit other shows (to bring my mind out of the Burton zone, as I call it), whether to take in my favorite painting (Piet Mondrian’s Broadway Boogie Woogie, by the way) or to check out a new special exhibition.
Whenever Ron (Magliozzi, my co-organizer) recounts his “eureka” moment that spurred him to curate an exhibition on the work of Tim Burton—while watching Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on a Sunday in 2005, as described in Ron’s first Burton post—it always takes me back to that Monday, when he excitedly approached my desk to chat about his weekend. The first thing he said to me that morning was, “You know who we should do next? Tim Burton!”
If you are interested in reproducing images from The Museum of Modern Art web site, please visit the Image Permissions page (www.moma.org/permissions). For additional information about using content from MoMA.org, please visit About this Site (www.moma.org/site).
© Copyright 2016 The Museum of Modern Art