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Institute of Contemporary Arts Presents Jack Smith A Feast for Open Eyes

The Institute of Contemporary Arts presents Jack Smith A Feast for Open Eyes on view 7–18 September 2011.

Legendary American artist, filmmaker and actor Jack Smith (1932–1989), described by Andy Warhol as the only person he would ever copy and by John Waters as “the only true underground filmmaker,” is celebrated at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in film, performance and debate with a retrospective of Smith’s work from 7 to 18 September 2011.

Working in New York from the 1950s until his death in 1989, Smith unequivocally resisted and upturned accepted conventions, whether artistic, moral or legal. Irreverent in tone and delirious in effect, Smith’s films, such as the notorious Flaming Creatures (1963), are both wildly camp and subtly polemical. Smith is best known for his contributions to underground cinema but his influence extends across performance art, photography and experimental theatre.

A Feast for Open Eyes: Jack Smith maps out the breadth of Smith’s practice, from his collaborative film productions to his individual writings, and looks at his legacy in the UK drawing upon a generation of New York artists with whom Smith was closely involved, including Jonas Mekas and Penny Arcade, and younger artists and filmmakers whom he influenced. John Zorn, a long-term Smith collaborator selects records to accompany an installation of slides documenting Smith’s work, as he used to in collaboration with Smith in the 1970s and 80s.

The retrospective opens with a screening of Flaming Creatures introduced by Chris Dercon, Director of Tate Modern, who was a close friend of Smith’s. The film is followed by the screening of an interview, recorded exclusively for the ICA this summer, with Jonas Mekas, a founder member of Anthology Film Archives who faced obscenity charges for defending Flaming Creatures in the 1960s. The presentation is introduced by Dominic Johnson, author of the forthcoming monograph Glorious Catastrophe: Jack Smith, Performance and Visual Culture (Manchester University Press) and co-curator of A Feast for Open Eyes.

New York-based artist, Warhol muse and close friend of Smith, Penny Arcade, performs Denial of Death, a performance inspired by conversations that took place in the last months of Smith’s life prior to his death at the height of the AIDS crisis in 1989. Penny Arcade was, with film critic J Hoberman, responsible for saving Smith’s archive before its sale to Gladstone Gallery in 2008 and the subsequent restoration of a number of films now shown in Europe for the first time.

For the complete programme go to

A Feast for Open Eyes: Jack Smith, supported by The Edwin Fox Foundation, is a collaboration between the ICA; Dominic Johnson; and LUX, London with special thanks to Gladstone Gallery, New York.

Image: Jack Smith, “Untitled,” c.1958–1962/2011. Analog C-print hand printed from original color negative on Fuji Crystal Archive paper, 14 x 11 inches Copyright Estate of Jack Smith Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York

Institute of Contemporary Arts
The Mall, London SW1Y 5AH

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