MOCA presents Kenneth Anger: ICONS, a showcase of the films, archives, and vision of one of the most original filmmakers of American cinema, on view at MOCA Grand Avenue from November 13, 2011, through February 27, 2012. A defining presence of underground art and culture and a major influence on generations of filmmakers, musicians, and artists, Anger’s films evoke the power of spells or incantations, combining experimental technique with popular song, rich color, and subject matter drawn equally from personal obsession, myth, and the occult.
MOCA’s exhibition centers on Anger’s Magick Lantern Cycle of films—Fireworks (1947), Puce Moment (1949), Rabbit’s Moon (1950/1979), Eaux d’artifice (1953), Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome (1954/66), Scorpio Rising (1963), Kustom Kar Kommandos (1965), Invocation of My Demon Brother (1969), and Lucifer Rising (1970-81)—presenting the work across multiple projections in a unique gallery installation of red vinyl, designed in close consultation with Anger.
“Kenneth Anger channels a world of magic, ritual, darkness, and desire—quintessential ingredients of Hollywood,” said MOCA Curator Bennett Simpson. “His films are legendary and yet always contemporary.”
Complementing the films is an archive of photographs, scrapbooks, and memorabilia from Anger’s personal collection that illustrates the filmmaker’s unique vision of Hollywood’s golden era. The inspiration and source material for the filmmaker’s infamous celebrity “gossip” books Hollywood Babylon, (1975) and Hollywood Babylon II (1984), the collection centers on stars such as Rudolph Valentino and Greta Garbo, as well as now lesser-known icons like silent-film actress Billie Dove. Anger grew up in Hollywood. His grandmother was a costume mistress, and he is claimed to have appeared as a child actor in the Warner Brothers production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935). The world of the classic studios and the mystique of its major figures radiates throughout the photographs, press clippings, letters, and memorabilia on display, which Anger has gathered across many decades.Kenneth Anger (b. 1927, Santa Monica, California; lives and works in Los Angeles) began making films as a teenager in the late 1930s, though his first work to be widely seen was Fireworks (1947), which would become a landmark of experimental cinema for its mixture of surrealism, open sexuality, and spectacular direction. Each of Anger’s classic films is distinct in subject and aesthetic, though they share an attraction to psychological intensity, occult themes and symbolism, and deeply artistic staging. Anger has been cited as a major influence on the aesthetic of music video, with its emphasis on dream sequence and elevated affect, and his own soundtracks have featured collaborations with Mick Jagger and Jimmy Page, among other rock legends. From the 1940s onward, Anger has worked in a counterculture milieu of staggering diversity, a fellow traveler with Jean Cocteau, Alfred Kinsey, Stan Brakhage, Marjorie Cameron, Tennessee Williams, Anton LaVey, and Marianne Faithfull, among many others. Filmmakers such as Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, John Waters, and Guy Maddin have all acknowledged Anger’s impact on their own work.
Technicolor Skull, a multimedia collaboration featuring Kenneth Anger on Theremin and Los Angeles artist Brian Butler on guitar and electronic instruments, will perform for the first time in Los Angeles at the exhibition opening on November 19. Technicolor Skull is a magick ritual of light and sound in the context of a live performance. The project premiered at Donaufestival in Austria, in April 2008, and has subsequently toured throughout Europe, performing at the National Museum of Art, Copenhagen, and the Serralves Museum, Portugal, and recently at the Hiro Ballroom, New York, for the Anthology Film Archives benefit.
Kenneth Anger: ICONS is organized by The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.
This exhibition is made possible by generous support from Karyn Kohl.