We are pleased to present Nathaniel Dorsky: Film and Film Stills. Surveying the experimental cinematic practice of the artist through film stills created from the 1960s-2010s, the online exhibition coincides with his newly published limited edition book of photographs, ECLOGUES: Letters and Correspondence, each signed and numbered by the artist and published by Peter Blum Edition. Please click "Inquire" below the artwork details to contact the gallery for more information.
Nathaniel Dorsky was born in New York City in 1943 and has lived and worked in San Francisco since 1971. The artist creates 16mm silent films and photographic stills that elicit poetic and contemplative moments of observation; they are occasions for meditations on light, landscape, time, and consciousness. Capturing oftentimes quotidian or verdant settings, the luminous film stills reveal everyday existence as profoundly stimulating and sublime.
Dorsky has presented his work at numerous institutions, including the currently on view exhibition, Private Lives Public Spaces at the Museum of Modern Art, NY. Others include the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Tate Modern, London; Filmoteca Española, Madrid; Vienna Film Museum; Harvard Film Archive; Yale University; and the Whitney Biennial in 2000 and 2012. A complete retrospective of his films was shown at the 53rd New York Film Festival in 2015.
“In film, there are two ways of including human beings. One is depicting human beings. Another is to create a film form which, in itself, has all the qualities of being human: tenderness, observation, fear, relaxation, the sense of stepping into the world and pulling back, expansion, contraction, changing, softening, tenderness of heart. The first is a form of theater and the latter is a form of poetry.”
— Nathaniel Dorsky
“Hours for Jerome (as in a Book of Hours) is an arrangement of images, energies, and illuminations from daily life. These fragments of light revolve around the four seasons. Part 1 is spring through summer; Part 2 is fall and winter. This footage was shot and edited from 1966 to 1970 and then edited to completion over a two year period ending in July 1982.”
— Nathaniel Dorsky on Hours for Jerome
“What tender chaos, what current of luminous rhymes might cinema reveal unbridled from the daytime word? During the Bronze Age a variety of sanctuaries were built for curative purposes. One of the principal activities was transformative sleep. Variations speaks to that tradition.”
— Nathaniel Dorsky on Variations
"Nathaniel Dorsky’s decades-long exploration of celluloid’s poetic and expressive properties captures quotidian settings— domestic, street-side, verdant—revealing themselves through montage and rhythm as simultaneously energetic and sculptural, deeply sensorial and transcendent."
— Five Films by Nathaniel Dorsky, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2019
“Some of the happiest moments in my recent movie going life have been spent watching the cinematic reveries of Nathaniel Dorsky. Working in 16-millimeter film, Dorsky makes short, silent works filled with everyday ecstasies — shifting shadows, nodding flowers — that capture the magnificence and ephemera of both the medium and the larger world.”
— Manohla Dargis, 10 Most Influential Films of the Decade, The New York Times, 2019
“Most filmmakers think about light when making films. All film is light, after all; every image in every film needs the light that illuminates it in order to exist – for capture, and for projection. Yet few think about it quite as much as artist-filmmaker Nathaniel Dorsky. As he writes in his book-cum-manifesto Devotional Cinema, 'beyond everything else, film is a screen, film is a rectangle of light, film is light sculpture in time'; to not consider it deeply would be to disregard film’s most essential property.”
— Matt Turner, The Photosynthesis of Film, Sight & Sound Magazine, 2018
"The films of Nathaniel Dorsky blend a beauteous celebration of the sensual world with a deep sense of introspection and solitude. They are occasions for reflection and meditation, on light, landscape, time and the motions of consciousness. Their luminous photography emphasizes the elemental frisson between solidity and luminosity, between spirit and matter, while his uniquely developed montage permits a fluid and flowing experience of time. Dorsky’s films reveal the mystery behind everyday existence, providing intimations of eternity."
— Steve Polta, San Francisco Cinematheque
"In these small stills from Dorsky’s experimental silent movies at Peter Blum Gallery, people appear as reflections and shadows or obscured by a scrim. Like the films themselves, the pictures thwart narratives, but the meditative slowness of the moving images is hard to convey frame by frame. Dorsky’s best shots pinpoint the pleasures of absorbed attention—on an overblown rose, an orange lizard, a shoe falling apart under water. Trees and flowering branches, usually seen in double-exposed layers, are nothing less than an exploration of bliss."
— Galleries, The New Yorker, 2016
“In walking distance from my apartment is San Francisco’s Arboretum located in Golden Gate Park. I decided that I would make a film now on a single subject and that subject would be the light – not the objects, but the sacredness of the light itself in this splendid garden. What I did not know is that the great beauty of this magnificent spring would bring forth not one, but seven films, each one immediately following the previous. I began to photograph on the second week of February and finished the editing of the seventh film during the last days of December.
These seven films spontaneously manifested as the stages of life: early childhood, youth, maturity, old age, and death. Elohim was photographed in early spring, the week of the lunar new year, the very spirit of creation. Abaton was photographed a few weeks later in the full ripeness of spring, the very purity and intoxication of passion. Coda was photographed in late spring, in the aftermath of this purity, the first shades of mortality and knowledge. Ode, photographed in early summer, is a soft textured song of the fallen, the dissonant reds of death, seeds, and rebirth. September is indeed, Indian summer, the halcyon swan song of earthly blessings. Monody, shot in the fading autumnal glory is an energized declaration of the end. And Epilogue, photographed in early December, rests in quietude, the garden’s energy now descending into the dark, damp earth.”
— Nathaniel Dorsky on Arboretum Cycle
“With their gently nodding, brilliantly colored flowers and shifting shadows, Dorsky’s heart-soaringly beautiful films [Arboretum Cycle] are reminders that cinema is also about light and form.”
— Manhola Dargis, Best Movies of 2018, The New York Times, 2018
“Dorsky is now an extremely young 75 years old, and the Arboretum Cycle expresses this in both directions. It is astonishing to watch an artist, long a master of his craft, challenge himself to find new modes of articulation, as he has done here in building a new film grammar for himself from the ground up. Inversely, it is astonishing to see films of such formal vibrancy which radiate such wisdom regarding their scale as objects of art, as visions of the world.”
— Phil Coldiron, Light on Leaves, Notebook MUBI, 2018
“For the viewer, the Arboretum Cycle may prove more medicinal, accentuating those meditative, pastoral aspects of Dorsky’s filmmaking that go against the grain of a culture that would only capitalize on our attention. In this sense the most important thing about the arboretum is not that it is beautiful, but that it is close at hand. Cinema has from its earliest beginnings promised the moon, but the Arboretum Cycle asks what it’s like having nowhere to be. There is very little sky across these seven films, but the golden light suffusing Epilogue’s final shots leaves little doubt that heaven is everywhere you look.”
— Max Goldberg, The Sacred Wood, The Brooklyn Rail, 2018
*All works are subject to availability; all prices are subject to change.
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