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Back to Reviews 96

Adolfas checks if 
the wheat is ripe, 
July 22,1971. 
From the film 
He Stands in a Desert.

Robert Frank 
during filming of 
The Sin of 
Jesus, 1960. 
From Lost Lost Lost.

Winter in SoHo 
Dec. 1977.
From Paradise 
Not Yet Lost.

jonas mekas

at laurence miller

by Roza Michael Kryzhanovska 
"My memories. They are out to get me, they 

are after me." --Jonas Mekas

The idea of changing film images into 

photographs, thus giving them new meaning 

as art objects, can be problematic. In his 

recent show, titled "Frozen Film Frames," 

the pioneering experimental filmmaker Jonas 

Mekas presented large-scale color film 

stills enlarged from frames of his original 

films. The result was an expansion of the 

perceptual meaning of both film and 

photographic images.

Since the 1950s Mekas has been one of the 

driving forces behind New York's avant-

garde film culture, which he has promoted 

as a film maker, a critic, an organizer and 

an administrator. Mekas's own films, with 

their autobiographical and diaristic 

approach, were created in opposition to 

commercial Hollywood cinema, and examine, 

in part, the relationship between film and 

individual memory.

As Mekas's films consist of compilations of 

separate images, so do the photographs in 

this show. Each print consists of 3 or 4 

consecutive frames taken from a film. We 

see the movements, expressions and settings 

change as we look down from the top frame 

to the bottom one. Mekas's photographs 

colonize an area that more properly belongs 

to film. And for Mekas, who is a filmmaker 

rather than a photographer, these prints 

are fragments of memory.

Themes of memory--subconscious and personal 

as well as collective and social--run 

through all the images in the show. For 

Mekas, a displaced person, an émigré from 

Lithuania, the past is always there, yet 

ruptured from the present. 

Subconscious memories are present in the 

three prints, one showing Warhol's chin and 

hand, another depicting Mekas's brother 

Adolphas's hands checking wheat, and a 

third of Allen Ginsberg's face. These 

images are deeply haunting voices, emotions 

and memory traces. The last series of 

images in the show are meditations on 

nature scenes in Cassis, Prospect Park and 

Colorado. They bring subconscious awareness 

of the past, and are combined with texts 

that add to their emotional resonance. 

Mekas invokes collective memories, 

particularly of the 1960s, with images that 

present joy and spirit and at the same time 

subjects of lament and loss. Images of 

Jackie Kennedy and her children, invoking 

the assassination of JFK, signify loss in 

the political domain. Loss in the cultural 

domain is represented by images of

John Lennon, Andy Warhol, Elvis 

Presley, Edie Sedgwick, and Nico. We also 

see Lou Reed, Robert Frank and Nam June 

Paik. These are people we all know, but at 

the same time, we see Mekas's memories of 


Laurence Miller, 138 Spring Street, NYC, NY 

10012, July 9-Aug. 16, 1996.


occasionally on art.