During the sixties and much of the seventies, people lived in a world that changed rapidly in a short amount of time. The politically awkward climate of the era was heightened by the assassinations of Robert and John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., the resignation of Richard Nixon, the Vietnam War, the fight for civil rights and other political and social conflicts. These forces ignited the creative spirit of American artists who further explored the turbulence of the times through the art that was being produced.
For those of a younger generation, it is through the New Hollywood and Experimental films made
during the sixties and seventies that the struggles, turmoil and recreational pleasures of the times are experienced and shared. The Black Films of Aldo Tambellini at Emerson College transport the viewer into a world where the villain was larger than a person, or a thing, it was an ideological villain that shaped the lives of every American citizen.
Born in Syracuse, NY in 1930, Aldo Tambellini pioneered the video art movement in the mid sixties by painting directly on film, which resulted in the production of the camera-less series The Black Films. Each of the films in the series is a journey from within, a journey that captivates our senses and stimulates our imagination.
If “to dislocate the senses of the viewer” was one of the goals behind Aldo Tambellini’s Black Films, the outcome has been a highly successful one. The abstracted forms and images in the films recall the palpability of Abstract Expressionism, in the sense that one sees an Abstract Expressionist painting and our immediate is to want to feel the texture. The work of Tambellini is a “primitive, sensory exploration of the medium, which ranges from total abstraction to the assassination of Bobby Kennedy, the Vietnam War, and black teenagers in Coney Island.” Black for Tambellini is a color, a color he has developed a profound relationship with throughout his artistic career. In the introduction to the Black Gate “a newspaper dedicated to worldwide unity and interest,” Tambellini writes:
black is space black is sound black is color black is darkness black is anger black is void
Among the most memorable films in the series are Black is and Black TV. Black is incorporates abstract forms alongside images of people marching, horses galloping and tanks, juxtaposed to the pulsating rhythms of African drums, heart beats and women and children chanting “black is beautiful.” Black TV is perhaps the most uncomfortable film to watch of all. The anguish and turmoil of the sixties and seventies is inscribed deep within our thoughts by the haunting facial close-ups and footage of Robert Kennedy speaking at the Ambassador Hotel. Throughout the length of the film, the trauma of Bobby Kennedy’s assassination and the fight for civil rights is augmented by the alarming sounds of people experiencing distress and horror. Further adding to the trauma is the voice of radio host repeating the phrase “Senator Kennedy has been shot…Is that possible? Is that possible?” Black TV is painful, disorienting and heart wrenching, crafted to awaken every one of our senses.
Tambellini referred to the Black Films as “paintings in motion” and as I intensely watched each of the seven films, I was reminded of the Suprematist paintings of Lissitzky and Malevich or the Futurist works of Joseph Stella. The films in the installation at Emerson College are presented in an intimate setting and are accompanied by stills and ephemera from various screenings and events organized by Tambellini.
The Black Films of Aldo Tambellini are on view through April 22, 2011 at the Huret and Spector Gallery in the Tufte Performance and Production Center, 10 Boylston Place, 6th Floor, Boston, MA. For more information, please click here.
Aldo Tambellini: The Black Films are a prelude to the 2011 Boston Cyberarts Festival which is
New England’s premier resource for artists, arts organizations, educators, and corporations who are working at the forefront of art and technology. The festival starts on April 22 through May 8, 2011.