The Paul Sharits exhibition at Greene-Naftali in conjunction with Anthology Film Archives is his second posthumous show at the gallery, presenting two projected films Apparent Motion (1975) and 3rd Degree (1982) as well as nineteen plus framed works on paper and film strips under Plexiglas.
The works are pieces related to his studies of color and the illusion of motion and a few surprisingly personal references.
Sharits, known internationally for his brilliant structural experimental films and installations, often working with scientists and physicians, created a large body of work from the 1960’s through the 1980’s during his short mercurial lifetime. Many of his films, drawings and paintings have rarely been seen as a group and the work is still on the forefront of visual perception.
Apparent Motion, a short projected film loop, is a precursor to Sharits’ Axiomatic Granularity (1975) and later Third Degree (1982). Apparent Motion
employs the “phi phenomena” (Max Wertheimer, 1912), or the subjectivity of human perception in film motion where there is no real movement. Sharits optically printed magnified film grain particles on Tri-X black/white film, made a high contrast negative from which he created yellow, red and cyan versions and optically printed them together, resulting in a film with the appearance somewhere between colored atoms bouncing off the projection screen and an animation of a magnified Seurat painting. This film, rarely seen, is mesmerizing.
The 24 minute film 3rd Degree is projected as three loops on three projectors with double mirrors that turn the images horizontal and side by side with no gap between the projections, forming one large screen. 3rd Degree implies three dangers: the woman’s voice in the film under interrogation “Look I won’t talk,” the image of the woman being threatened by a lighted match and the ignition of the film and the emulsion of her image bubbling, only to have the film fast forward and repeat. This burning of the image is also referenced to George Landow’s 1967 Bardo Follies and Sharits later 1978 film Un-Framed Lines.
Often Sharits’ intellectual pursuits into the illusion of film and color seem to harbor darker implications than just pure abstraction, as echoed in some of the titles on his drawings such as Tallahassee Cloud Cover Anxiety, Cellular Disorder or the more psychedelic Lower Arm Infection and Reach, a drawing of a hand reaching out for help or drowning. As with Robert Smithson, whose earth-art Spiral Jetty piece belied some of his darker personal figurative drawings, Sharits was also pursued by a lifetime of complexities.
His film strip constructions on Plexiglas, Untitled (Frozen Film Frame) and Frozen Film Frame Series, are color frame studies whose titles pun the stop action of time and motion. The viewer perceives the possibility of motion and hue enhancement through the film strip constructions but as a esthetic concept. Sharits has often combined alternating color frames in his films, such as Epileptic Seizure Comparison, N.O.T.H.I.N.G and T.O.U.C.H.I.N.G, to create a sort of simulated state of empathetic color epilepsy.
Sharits’ drawings at Greene-Naftali range from structural graph-like landscapes to the conceptual. The drawing Sexuality 1 #27 could be read (possibly with humor) as a graph indicating a short pause, a medium active phase and possibly a long nadir, open to reader interpretation.
Paul Sharits, visionary-madman, merits more shows of his large body of work.