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Four Films by Rudy Burckhardt

Thursday, February 6th, 7:00 PM

Poetry Foundation
61 West Superior Street
Free Admission

Rudy Burckhardt may be most well known for his iconic photographs of New York’s streets and skyscrapers, but he was also a much-respected underground filmmaker—“practically a subterranean monument,” according to John Ashbery. Burckhardt drew inspiration and acting talent from the city’s many artists, poets, and dancers, including collaborators Joseph Cornell, Alex Katz, Larry Rivers, Jane Freilicher, Edwin Denby, Ron Padgett, and Alice Notley, among others. This screening features four short films that Burckhardt made with poets of the New York School: John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch, and Frank O’Hara. These same poets are represented in the Poetry Foundation’s current exhibition, Jane Freilicher: Painter Among Poets.

The frolicking “Mounting Tension” (1950) stars Larry Rivers as an obsessed artist, Jane Freilicher as his eccentric psychiatrist, and John Ashbery as a baseball jock turned abstract painter. “Automotive Story” (1954) is a quiet, humorous mockumentary on cars, with Freilicher narrating Kenneth Koch’s text and Frank O’Hara as the pianist. (Both films are mentioned in Jenni Quilter’s essay on Freilicher, "Explicit as a Star," from the January 2014 issue of Poetry.) In contrast to these early black-and-white prints are two color films Burckhardt shot in the 1980s. “In Bed” (1986) visualizes Koch’s poem of the same name, with Chopin played by Gena Raps. “Ostensibly” (1989) is a collage film featuring dual narrations of Ashbery’s eponymous poem of the same name, with both Ashbery and Burckhardt appearing in in front of the camera. "Ostensibly" was originally published in Poetry in October/November 1987.

All films are presented on 16mm, with the exception of “The Automotive Story” (DVD). Many thanks to Eric Brown and Tibor de Nagy Gallery, Jacob Burckhardt, the Film-Makers’ Cooperative, South Side Projections, and JB Mabe for their help with this screening. Total run time: 73 minutes.

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