Jay Rosenblatt Retrospective at MoMa

Written by:
Paula Farmer
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Scene from Jay Rosenblatt’s The Darkness of Day

Jay Rosenblatt Retrospective at MoMA

For the next week, the Museum of Modern Art in New York will feature the works of Jay Rosenblatt, a most unusual and intriguing filmmaker with a style all his own.  The San Francisco-based Rosenblatt is often referred to as the master of the found-footage form in that he finds and collects a mixture of discarded educational and industrial films, commercials, news clips and home movies.  Mostly presented in black and white, he then deftly combines the footage with voice-overs, poetry, journal entries and music.  The results are stoic, subtle, yet jarring and absolutely memorable.

Included in the MoMA retrospective is the New York premiere of The Darkness of Day, a haunting meditation on suicide.  Haunting indeed.  I sat thoroughly engrossed, not knowing if that was good or bad given the subject matter, but assured that much of the appeal is the medium and presentation itself.  It’s that feeling of wanting to look away from the reality of a taboo subject and disturbing images, but yet finding yourself all the more drawn in and like Rosenblatt, wanting to explore the unknown.  The pathos of isolation and the hunger to leave life is captured through found footage, along with readings from the journal kept by a brother of the filmmaker’s friend who committed suicide in 1990.  Other compelling stories of suicide are recounted through voice-over as well, and all are illustrated entirely from otherwise unrelated16mm footage.

Film retrospectives are wonderful ways to discover or rediscover artists like Rosenblatt who unfortunately can fall through the cracks of more iconic figures and works.  Often such films cannot be easily obtained, so screenings at art houses and museums offer rare opportunities to view important works.  The Rosenblatt collection is just such an opportunity.

The MoMA program begins on October 13th, with an introduction by Jay Rosenblatt, and continues through October 18.  Retrospectives of Rosenblatt’s work will also be held at the Walker Arts Center in Minneapolis in February 2011 and the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, OH in April.

For more information about the MoMa exhibition, go to the website here.

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