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Artists Using Film, from Dali to Mills

Posted June 16, 2011 to photo album "Artists Using Film, from Dali to Mills"

Mike Mills, the writer/director of Beginners, started as graphic artists. Many other artists have turned to film to expand and evolve their vision.

Mike Mills as Artist and Filmmaker
The Artist as Film Camera
Andy Warhol: Hollywood as Subject
Andy Warhol: Film as Concept
The Artist Takes on Moving
The Artist Takes on Moving
The Artist Takes on Moving

The Artist Takes on Moving "Pictures": Robert Longo

Johnny Mnemonic (1995)

In the ‘90s, along with a slew of credit-card-clutching twentysomething first-time filmmakers inspired by Kevin Smith and Robert Rodriguez was another group: visual artists. Specifically, a certain brand of ‘80s art star got behind the camera in the ‘90s as not just the motion picture frame but the motion picture industry was seen as a new arena of exploration. Many of these artists hailed from what was sometimes known as the “Pictures” movement. Associated with such alternative art spaces (as Hallwalls) and galleries (as Metro Pictures) artists like Robert Longo, David Salle and Cindy Sherman, whose visual work explicitly referenced the tropes of cinema, ventured into both Hollywood and the independent world. On one level, this was not such a large step. Longo, for example, was best known for his “Men in the Cities” series of paintings depicting elegantly attired urbanites frozen in whiplash moments. The series was partially inspired by the ending of Chris Marker’s film La Jetee, and, indeed, Longo had used a still frame from the film as part of his live performance work Sound Distance of a Good Man. But beyond the visual imagery, Longo’s work dealt specifically with the relationship between culture and institutional power, referencing capital, industrial production and monumentality. So, Hollywood moviemaking became a natural interest. Longo’s foray into features was Johnny Mnemonic, a piece of pre-Matrix cyberpunk based on a William Gibson short story and starring, yes, Keanu Reeves as a kind of memory mule. Not working as an action film but also not carrying over enough of Longo’s striking sense of design and composition to satisfy his art world audience, the film was Longo’s sole venture behind the camera.