• film

Independent Frames: American Experimental Animation in the 1970s and 1980s

Shape and Structure

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Saturday 1/20
2:00 pm
$10 General Public
$8 Students & Seniors
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While structural film was the dominant form within the avant-garde tradition at the dawn of the 1970s, animators used shape and structure in a variety of ways that differentiated their works. Robert Russett composed geometric patterns and colour sequences in complex rhythms to create his pulsing, abstract films. Paul Glabicki created incisive, analytical works that explored objects through image, language, form and movement, drafting stunningly complicated sequences by hand. Barry Spinello’s films are also hand-drawn but more impressionistic, with blobs of colour flashing by to the rhythm of a primitive, handmade optical soundtrack. With Saugus Series, Pat O’Neill created several chapters of complex, layered imagery that was ‘animated’ through physical processes of composition such as optical printing, hand-drawn shapes and composites.

Ten Second Film

Bruce Conner, 1966, 16mm, 10 seconds


Peter Rose, 1970, 16mm, 8 min.

Print courtesy of the Academy Film Archive

Object Conversation

Paul Glabicki, 1985, 16mm, 10 min.

Primary Stimulus

Robert Russett, 1980, 16mm, 8 min.

Print courtesy of the Academy Film Archive

Diagram Film

Paul Glabicki, 1978, 16mm, 14 min


Robert Russett, 1972, 16mm, 7 min.

Print courtesy of the Academy Film Archive

Colored Relations

Barry Spinello, 1970, 16mm, 5 min.

Saugus Series

Pat O’Neill, 1974, 16mm, 18 min.

Independent Frames is supported by the Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Foundation and the Cinema Studies Department at the University of Pennsylvania

Independent Frames: American Experimental Animation in the 1970s + 1980s


This series examines the work of a group of American artists who approached film through independently-produced, frame-by-frame animations in the 1970s and 80s. Made primarily by artists with no formal animation training, the selection of films in this programme incorporates autobiography, visual fantasy, abstraction, medium specificity and biting satire. Several works were broadcast at the time and others distributed on home video, affording these artists a level of success and reach beyond that which other artist-filmmakers of their era could attain. Building on the work of earlier generations of experimental animators such as Mary Ellen Bute, Standish Lawder, Harry Smith and Stan Vanderbeek – some of whose works are included in these screenings – this new generation of filmmakers elaborated on inherited techniques and proceeded to pioneer their own. Some artists explored cel and hand-drawn animation (Sally Cruikshank, Suzan Pitt, Mary Beams) while others explored new directions in kinetic collage (Frank Mouris, Paul Glabicki). Some used flicker and abstraction (Robert Russett, Adam Beckett, Barry Spinello) and others explored the affective potential of film through psychedelic fantasy (Sky David, Lisa Crafts). Through five screening programmes, Independent Frames: American Experimental Animation in the 1970s + 1980s highlights themes of the body and sexuality, abstraction and psychedelia, structure and composition, autobiographical reflection and the influence of commercial animation. Lending historical context to recent developments in both animation studies and the role of animation in contemporary art, the series is a timely investigation of this era of invention and energy in experimental animation, suggesting a landscape of artists whose work needs to be considered anew.

Independent Frames is curated by Herb Shellenberger.