Frank O’Hara (American, 1926 – 1966) is considered one of the most important postwar American poets and is often associated with the New York School, a group of artists, writers and musicians that comprised the downtown avant-garde of the 1950s and ’60s. His interests and influences included jazz, the visual arts, theater, and film. In the 1960s he served as an art critic and assistant curator at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Painter and filmmaker Alfred Leslie (American, b. 1927) met Frank O’Hara in 1952, following his first solo show at Tibor de Nagy gallery in New York. In a 1960 letter to his friend, Leslie proposed a framework for “The Last Clean Shirt”:
We will shoot for two SEPARATE LEVELS on the film. One is the VISUAL, the other the HEARD & the spectator will be in TWO places or more SIMULTANEOUSLY. NOT AS MEMORY BUT AT THE SAME MOMENT. PARALLELISM! MULTIPLE POINTS OF VIEW!
The film is divided into three sections comprised of the same single shot footage of a black man and white woman riding in a convertible through the streets of downtown Manhattan. The second and third sections contain text provided by O’Hara, which functions initially as a translation of the woman’s speech (in reality, Finnish gibberish) and then as a representation of the driver’s thoughts. O’Hara’s cryptic subtitles contain phrases from or references to many of his poems, published posthumously in the 1971 anthology The Collected Poems. By manipulating these lines and collaging them with moving images, O’Hara and Leslie create a layered, experimental work that blends highbrow and bohemian art, poetry and film to comment on the social and political climate of the mid ’60s.
Major support for this exhibition is provided by the Sadoff Family Foundation.
Additional support is provided
by a grant from the Wisconsin Arts
Board with funds from the State
of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Monday, October 6, 6 p.m.
Last Clean Shirt Gallery Talk with Andrew Lampert, Curator of Collections at Anthology Film Archives, New York, NY
Free and open to the public
All programs take place at the Haggerty unless otherwise noted.