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The Fleshtones rock out in ‘Soul City’ (co-written by a young Lou Reed)


 
Animator and all around 3-D mad scientist/genius M. Henry Jones has long been a fixture of the East Village. With his street level art studio allowing passersby to see his fantastic creations since 1992 (he’s recently had to move) the friendly Jones is one of the last bohemian artists still left in the neighborhood. Jones has also helped keep the work of his friend Harry Smith alive with “magic lantern” screenings of Smith’s animated films utilizing multiple projectors, mounted the world over with DJ Spooky.

During the late 1970s, while both were students at the School of Visual Arts, Jones became friends with Peter Zaremba, leader of garage rockers The Fleshtones (and later the host of MTV’s The Cutting Edge series) and they teamed up to make a music video marrying Jones’ strobelight animation technique to a number titled “Soul City” (a song originally recorded by the Hi Lifes and co-written by a young Lou Reed).
 

 
Marc H. Miller’s Gallery 98 is currently exhibiting ten hand-colored cutout photographs that M. Henry Jones created for the film:

The emergence of digital photography during the last decade has provided a new perspective on photographs from the pre-digital era. The photographs that M. Henry Jones created in the late 1970s for the animated film “Soul City” have a special place in this story of technological change.

Sometimes the urge to create precedes the technology that makes it practical. That was certainly true for Jones’ 2 ½-minute photo animation of a performance by the rock group Fleshtones, enhanced with stroboscopic effects. Created before the widespread use of computers, digitization, and tools like Photoshop (1988), Jones’ special effects were created solely through tedious analog techniques. It took nearly two years but there was an unexpected bonus: 1700 individually printed photographs, each hand-cut with an X-acto knife and then hand-colored. This was the raw material for the film, re-shot frame-by-frame with changing backgrounds. Today these photographs stand on their own both as beautiful objects and as an artistic record of the creative toils that preceded the digital revolution.

 

 
The making of this elaborate, time-consuming piece was apparently quite legendary at S.V.A. The exhibit also makes a bit clearer the connections between that school and not only the nascent East Village art scene, but also the punk and New Wave era in New York City as well. After all it was artists and art students who were the ones making the scene (man). Aside from Jones and Zaremba, S.V.A. counted among its students Keith Haring, Kenny Scharf, John Sex, and for a short while, the great painter Joe Coleman, who left in disgust when one of the instructors told him that he was painting “wrong.”
 

 
As someone who has made my own share of work and time intensive low budget East Village music videos, I doff my hat to the maniac workaholic who put this puppy together…
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
You must see this before you die: Ian McKellen fronting The Fleshtones at Warhol’s Factory

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Ian McKellen recites a Shakespeare sonnet while The Fleshtones zone out in the background at Warhol’s Factory in 1987.

This is one of those things that language can’t encapsulate. Not so much because it’s something wondrous or epic, it’s not. But because it is just so inexplicably Zen… as most inexplicable things are.

Broadcast on MTV as part of the last episode of “Andy Warhol’s Fifteen Minutes” TV program.
 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
63 Portraits from Club 57: A look at the legendary early 80s New York nightclub

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The Fleshtones at Club 57
 
A photographer named Robert Carrithers has posted an extraordinary series of 63 portraits taken at the legendary Manhattan early 80s nightclub, Club 57 on Flickr. Club 57 was hosted by Dangerous Minds pal Ann Magnuson and some like-minded friends.

Club 57’s entertainment, much of it rooted in punk rock and an ironic take on campy TV re-run culture, had the same kind of “let’s get up and put on a show” spirit as a Judy Garland/Mickey Rooney musical, but against a much more decadent backdrop. It’s fascinating to see how this era is being defined by contemporary art historians, as well as first rate digital fare like this unique portfolio.

From photographer Robert Carrither’s statement:

I lived in New York during the early ‘80s, a very special unique time of creativity in New York. I was a regular at a place called Club 57 in the basement of a Polish church on St. Marks in the East Village. It was a creative laboratory that would change night after night with themes and happenings. One night there would be an art opening and then another night there would be bands, films or a crazed theme party. Many talented and fun people developed their art at Club 57 throughout this time. The following photographs capture some of these memorable people through portraits or at the various events.

Each of these photos has its own story. Please read them and you can understand each one better.


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Carrithers: “Ann Magnuson was one of the founders and the first creative manager of Club 57. She developed her performance skills night after night going from one incredible character into the next. From Soviet lounge singer to country and western to heavy metal. She went from performance artist in the downtown 80’s New York to the thirteen all-girl band Pulsallama (and was the lead singer and lyricist for the band Bongwater and in the fun heavy metal band Vulcan Death Grip). She went on to Hollywood films and TV. A charming, talented chameleon performer. There really is way too much to write about her. It is best to go to and see for yourself: www.annmagnuson.com.”

 
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Carrithers: “I guess I do not need to write too much about Keith. He was a regular at Club 57 and had his first shows there. He took off as an artist not so long after. An inspiring person and artist of the early 80’s in New York. I photographed him at one of his first shows outside of Club 57 somewhere on the west side of New York City.”

Thank you, Julien Nitzberg!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment