Monday, May 18, 2020

Adam Beckett - Heavy Light (1973)

"A young artist, a career full of promise, a life of innovation and energy tragically cut short. Such a summary barely begins to describe the bright, fast burn that was rising star Adam Beckett (1950-1979), one of the first graduates of the CalArts Experimental Animation program, and a prolific animator, sketch artist, and effects prodigy. Known for his unique abstract film loops, as well as for his precise, yet organic work with the optical printer, Beckett’s work continues to influence young animators both at his alma mater, where he is frequently mentioned, as well as in the wider animation world....

"Before joining the then-new Experimental Animation Program at CalArts, Beckett had studied mathematics. A seemingly incongruous link, his ease with numbers and abstractions would prove essential, and made him a natural when it came to manually exposed and re-exposed animation.
Appropriately, Beckett's earliest works are very much a representation of the direction of Jules Engel's Experimental Animation program in the early 1970s. Engel, a former animator at Disney, and later UPA, was at that point a dedicated abstract expressionist whose interests were concentrated in visual music and painterly, geometric animation. The influence of this iconic program chair can be felt in early Beckett pieces like the musically-driven Dear Janice, with its mixture of abstract cycles, words, sexual imagery, and live footage, or in Kitsch in Synch, where playroom shapes build and build in time to a nonsense chant that grows from child-like voices to wild cacophony....  Works such as Evolution of the Red Star, with its cycling, multiplying shapes, color tinting, and playful use of the animated frame, or Heavy Light, with its energy trails optically printed on black, showcase Beckett’s sense of experimentation and personal evolution. The figure makes an appearance, too, memorably in the pornographic, yet placid, Flesh Flows with its homages to Schiele and Dali enveloped by pulsing, gradually distorted imagery....

"In many of the shorts, Beckett’s focus is on rhythm, and on new configurations of repetitive movement and morphing shapes....  In his work, Beckett displays an easy mastery of the optical printer, used to create multi-layered effects that, at the time, were a far cry beyond what was capable using a single or multi-plane downshooting rig. For those unfamiliar with the technique, an optical printer is a device that links one, or several, film projectors to a movie camera, allowing for the re-photographing, layering, and alteration of film.

"...  in Beckett’s case, this understanding of the optical printer’s range of uses straddles both the art and VFX fields. Shortly after graduating from CalArts, Beckett went to work at Industrial Light & Magic. His previous experiments with the optical printer, particularly the so-called Knotte Grosse Experiments, and his tinkering with the roto camera setup at Lucasfilm paid off, as Beckett was put on visual effects development for a new science fiction film called Star Wars...."
                                                                     - Zoe Chevat, Animation World

Adam K. Beckett: Complete Works 1970-1979 dvd purchasable here 

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