LIFE & FILM: Larry Janiak
“Drawing directly on film, when approached calmly, reveals the universe.” –Larry Janiak
Anthology Film Archives, a New York City archive and exhibitor of experimental & avant-garde films, will be premiering a retrospective (the first-ever!) of Larry Janiak’s work this July. A south side Chicagoan who studied with Aaron Siskind and Harry Callahan at Chicago’s Institute of Design, Janiak has created a stunning body of work that mixes live action film and visual experiments in abstract image. His work is exciting, vibrant and vastly under acknowledged. Tell your NYC friends & fam, and keep an eye out for the Chicago premiere! Full program below…
Between 1960-1970 Chicago filmmaker Larry Janiak crafted a stunning body of work filled with personal images, dynamic shapes, and overarching spiritual quests. The images are often intimate, yet the overall moods and themes echo well beyond the self. Janiak has been making experimental films as a means of personal and aesthetic expression since the age of 15. He studied and then taught at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Institute of Design, an environment steeped in Bauhaus traditions and one of the first schools in the U.S. to develop an art-film program. His filmmaking techniques include live action film and visual experiments in abstract image via direct chemical manipulation of the film emulsion and scratching or drawing images directly on the film surface itself.
It’s hard to believe that Janiak’s films are so little known outside small circles in his hometown of Chicago. This long overdue retrospective, presented in collaboration with Chicago Film Archives (CFA), aims to introduce Janiak’s singular work to a new audience. CFA’s Collections Manager, Anne Wells, will be here in-person to present the program.
“Janiak displays an instinctive command of his techniques, an assuredness of process rivaled only by Pat O’Neill.” –Doug McLaren, CINE-FILE
ALLEGRO 1960, 3 min, 16mm, color, sound
Rhythmic colored linear patterns of abstract grids move in syncopation to the allegro from Brandenburg Concerto #3 in G Major by J.S. Bach.
DISINTEGRATION LINE #1 (DL1) 1960, 9 min, 16mm, b&w, silent. Preserved by Chicago Film Archives with support from the National Film Preservation Foundation.
Black and White full frame field texture motion as opalescent as the dancing night sky. The abstract animation field textures subtly depict the infinitesimal nuclei of energy called Tanmatra, a moving field of aggregates of atoms and cosmic motion called the dance of Shiva.
ADAMS FILM 1963, 9 min, 16mm., color, sound. Preserved by Chicago Film Archives with support from the National Film Preservation Foundation.
A visual film collage experiment that combines live action footage with abstract images and textures drawn directly on 16mm film. The sound track is made from multiply-recorded tape loops of eclectic sounds, while the live action footage captures scenes from an early Chicago Earth Day parade and a Janiak family gathering. Inspired by musique concrète and the work and writings of John Cage and Gertrude Stein.
GLASSHOUSE 1964, 7 min, 16mm, b&w, sound
A documentary film of a large terrarium made out of wood and glass that Janiak built using handmade wood joints during the summer of 1959. The design was inspired by a visit to Frank Lloyd Wright’s home Taliesin in Spring Green, Wisconsin.
AGAMEMNON IN NEW YORK 1964, 4.5 min, 16mm, b&w, sound. Made in collaboration with Wayne Boyer.
What started as a film test on new sync-sound film equipment quickly became a short film documenting the typical nuttiness behind the scenes at Goldsholl Design & Film Associates, a Chicago-based design firm that employed both Janiak and Wayne Boyer. Janiak ad libs alone, as no one else would come out from the behind the camera. Shot by Wayne Boyer and edited by Janiak, a home movie.
LIFE & FILM 1965, 4.5 min, 16mm, b&w, sound. Made in collaboration with Robert Stiegler and Jeffrey Pasco.
This film was conceived as a “picture postcard.” The picture side of the postcard is equivalent to the moving images recorded by the film camera, while the sound track is like the message written on the backside. A lyrical look at a few Chicago filmmakers going on their way to make a film in the Michigan sand dunes on a sunny day. The soundtrack includes “Tomorrow Never Knows” by John Lennon and the Beatles. (Larry Janiak)
HALE HOUSE 1965, 11 min, 16mm, b&w, sound
A documentary film about Hale House, a Chicago home where Swami Vivekananda lived while a speaker at the 1893 Parliament of Religions at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The film lingers on architectural details of the home while a soundtrack of Indian raga sitar music and Vedic chanting fills the air. The film was made by Larry for Swami Bhashyananda, the former head of the Vivekanandra Vedanta Society of Chicago.
HOMAGE #5 1970, 6 min, 16mm, color, sound
An unfinished film, or preliminary sketch, that pairs live action film with a recorded lecture on reincarnation by Baba Ram Dass. The footage deliberately resembles outtakes, a lot like those accidental moments in life that can throw a new light on our understanding. An exercise of the non-literal relationship between image and sound.
DISINTEGRATION LINE #2 (DL2) 1970, 12 min, 16mm., color, sound. Preserved by Chicago Film Archives with support from the National Film Preservation Foundation.
An optically printed full color randomly animated texture field image film set to Gamelan music. Full field colored animated abstract images progress in subtle visual sequences in discernible steps of intensity. DL2 is a film expressing the spirituality in art, a view of the cosmos as dancing atoms. (Larry Janiak)