Oskar Fischinger (1900-1967), Raumlichtkunst, 1926/2012.  Three screen projection: three 35mm films transferred to high-definition video, black-and-white and color, sound; 10 minutes, looped.  © Center for Visual Music.

Oskar Fischinger (1900-1967), Raumlichtkunst, 1926/2012.  Three screen projection: three 35mm films transferred to high-definition video, black-and-white and color, sound; 10 minutes, looped.  (c) Center for Visual Music.

Oskar Fischinger, Pioneer in Abstract Film Environments

Oskar Fischinger (1900-1967), Raumlichtkunst, 1926/2012.  Three screen projection: three 35mm films transferred to high-definition video, black-and-white and color, sound; 10 minutes, looped.  (c) Center for Visual Music.

Oskar Fischinger (1900-1967), Raumlichtkunst, 1926/2012.  Three screen projection: three 35mm films transferred to high-definition video, black-and-white and color, sound; 10 minutes, looped.  (c) Center for Visual Music.

Oskar Fischinger with Motion Painting Plexiglas panels, ca. 1947.

 

Whitney Museum of American Art
945 Madison Avenue at 75th Street
212-570-3600
New York
Oskar Fischinger:
Space Light Art – A Film Environment

June 28-October 28, 2012

Whitney Museum of American Art presents Oskar Fischinger: Space Light Art – A Film Environment, curated by Chrissie Iles, the Whitney’s Anne & Joel Ehrenkranz Curator, and features a new re-creation by the Center for Visual Music from Fischinger’s restored original nitrate film.

Oskar Fischinger worked in animation, filmmaking and painting. An influential pioneer of abstract cinema, Fischinger started his career in Weimar-era Germany during the 1920s. Working with multiple-projector formats, he redefined abstraction during this period, with spectacular films that explore the interplay of abstract shapes, color, and light. Inspired by the German painter Walter Ruttman and his 1921 experiments in “painting with time,” Fischinger, working along with Hungarian composer Alexander Laszlo, first combined film and music with projections of abstract color in the mid-1920s.

The Whitney’s exhibition focuses on Fischinger’s •Raumlichtkunst (Space Light Art)•, one of the first multimedia projections ever made. Debuted in Germany in 1926, this multiscreen film series was radical in format, creating, in Fischinger’s words: “an intoxication by light from a thousand sources.” The projection format and unique combination of abstract shapes and hypnotic patterns was, as Iles states: “decades ahead of its time, establishing Fischinger as a key figure in the history of multi-media projective environments.”

The re-creation of •Raumlichtkunst• on view at the museum was first photochemically restored by the Center for Visual Music, then recreated in high-definition from original 35mm nitrate film material. Using modern digital processes, the restoration re-creates the rich coloration of Fischinger’s originals from the 1920s. The projection on each screen displays layers of geometric animations echoing Fischinger’s earliest experiments with abstract forms, including spirals and staffs, moiré patterns, and tinted liquid patterns.

Born in Gelnhausen, Germany, Oskar Fischinger (1900-1967), initially pursued a career in music, studying violin and organ construction, before enrolling in a trade school devoted to architectural drafting and tool design where he eventually earned an engineer’s diploma.

Moving with his family to Frankfurt, Fischinger was introduced to the work of abstract film pioneer Walter Ruttman in 1921, and soon began to develop his first and most radical films, experimenting with colored liquids and three dimensional structures composed of wax and clay.

Fischinger moved on to Munich and then Berlin to pursue a career as a full-time filmmaker. From this period onward, Fischinger would alternate commercial work and his personal, experimental filmmaking. While he preferred to work in an avant-garde direction, Fischinger’s commercial work allowed him both the financial security and access to the latest technology on which his personal work depended. His technical prowess and special effects work soon garnered him the name "The Wizard of Friederichstrasse," after the location of his studio.

After the Nazi government declared all abstract films ‘degenerate,’ Fischinger found it increasingly difficult to obtain necessary permits and moved to Hollywood to pursue his work first at Paramount and later at MGM and Disney. Feeling constrained by the demands of the studios, Fischinger increasingly turned to oil painting as a creative outlet, producing over eight hundred canvases, and did not receive any funding for his personal films after 1947. In total, Fischinger produced more than fifty films.

Oskar Fischinger (1900-1967), Raumlichtkunst, 1926/2012.  Three screen projection: three 35mm films transferred to high-definition video, black-and-white and color, sound; 10 minutes, looped.  © Center for Visual Music.