Re: visual albums

From: Gene Youngblood (email suppressed)
Date: Sat May 15 2010 - 07:23:19 PDT

Steve and Roger,
James Herbert's nude studies, made over a period of four decades, are exquisite. They are to nude portraiture what Brakhage is to abstract expressionism, and for the same reason -- the addition of time and motion, which unfolds the psychological and emotional potential of the tradition and takes it way beyond mere portraiture. And film's tactility has rarely been exploited with greater effect. It looks like step printing, but in fact it's real-time rephotography involving a hand-cranked projector.

Herbert's films used to be at MoMA (I guess they still are), and for a while he was regarded with the kind of reverence we accord to Peter Hutton and other artists of that stature. Jem Cohen released a VHS collection many years ago, on his C-100 publishing label, but in spite of that Herbert has faded from view. This is both tragic and baffling, given the sheer beauty and artistic singularity of these works. One would think that the resurgence of artisanal practice in film would return Herbert to the spotlight, but no.

Not everyone shares my opinion. In the late '80s James and I tried to persuade Bob Stein to publish a laserdisc box set on his Voyager Press label, but Bob, and presumably his consulting staff, were unimpressed.


Gene Youngblood
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