Pat O’Neill has been deeply involved in Los Angeles culture since the late 1960’s. A founding father of the city’s avant-garde film scene, an influential professor at CalArts and an optical effects pioneer, he is best known for his short works from the early 1960’s onwards which are highly graphic, layered and reflexive assemblages based on a mastery of optical printing techniques.
In O’Neill’s films boundaries fade, narrative collapses and layers of imagery draw the viewer simultaneously towards and away from linear meaning. O’Neill has combined found footage with experimental montage and compositing techniques to create a graphic language that deals with how different, often disparate elements assembled together in the frame relate to one another. His innovative optical techniques anticipated our digital landscape well before its time.
Several of his many avant garde films produced between 1963 and 2006 are considered classics (especially “7362” (1967), “Runs Good” (1970), “Saugus Series” (1974), “Water and Power” (1989, “Trouble in the Image” (1996), and “The Decay of Fiction” (2002). “Water and Power”, his first 35 mm. feature, which journeys through a California of imaginary intensity, was the Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner in 1990 and hailed as a touchstone for filmmaking in the future. All his work from that decade on has been executed in 35 mm and relied upon the optical printer for principal production.
Throughout his career he has gained an international following with recent retrospectives shown at the Tate Modern, the Whitney Museum, and the Centre Pompidou. In addition he has received the Maya Daren Award from AFI and the Persistence of Vision Award from the San Francisco Film Festival along with grants from the Guggenheim and the Rockefeller foundations. In 2004-06, 40 years of his work in film, drawing, sculpture, printmaking and photography was the subject of two major exhibitions, one at the Santa Monica Museum of Art and the other at Cornerhouse in Manchester, England. In his latest show this spring at Rosamund Felsen’s Gallery, (Santa Monica, CA) he displayed his first prototypes for 3-d sculptural composites in an installation setting.