The career of American media artist, Walter Ungerer, began when he entered the graphic arts program at Pratt Institute in 1954. He finished his MFA at Columbia in 1960 and was associated with the underground film movement in New York City through the socially and intellectually turbulent Sixties. Now in the seventh decade of is practice, he has built a body of imaginative, thought-provoking work by relying on intuition, playful exper-imentation, scholarship, and diligence. Like all other experimental films, Ungerer’s works depart, sometimes widely, from familiar narrative movie grammar; “stories” are told indirectly, in abstract mixtures of photography, sound (both planned and found), choreography, and always-malleable time.
Although they are often considered separately, still photography and cinema have cross-pollinated throughout their history. In fact, some big-name artists (Man Ray, Paul Strand, Robert Frank, David Lynch, Stanley Kubrick) have been successful both as photographers and as filmmakers. With both his arresting still images and his extraordinary experimental films, Walter Ungerer, this month’s feature, is clearly another of those artists. The still images from Ungerer’s oeuvre are carefully-crafted, painterly abstractions that can rest comfortably on any gallery’s walls. His films, from his first wind-up camera’s to his newest, entirely camera-less works, hang equally easily with those of other creative pushers of the envelope.