Jack Smith

Few artists can be said to have had a greater influence on the history of experimental cinema, queer cinema, and performance art than Jack Smith (1932–1989). Smith was an antic performer who played to the cheap seats, flamboyantly and tragicomically overwrought in the manner of Theda Bara, Maria Montez, Gloria Swanson, and Dorothy Lamour. His style of camp blended Hollywood orientalism, burlesque, kitsch, polymorphous sexuality, and social satire. Caustically funny, politically trenchant, and defiantly intolerant of intolerance, he provoked police raids and censorial judges, and created a beautiful, haunting, poignant, outrageous, orgiastic body of work that transformed the artistic landscape of the New York underground—a culture also being shaped in profoundly radical ways by Andy Warhol, Tony Conrad, Ken Jacobs, Ron Rice, the Kuchars, Jonas Mekas, the Velvet Underground, Charles Ludlam, and Susan Sontag—as well as inspiring a subsequent generation of artists, including Richard Foreman, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Christophe Schlingensief, Laurie Anderson, Derek Jarman, Nan Goldin, Robert Wilson Jack Goldstein, Mike Kelley, Pipilotti Rist, Vaginal Davis, Cindy Sherman, Guy Maddin, Ryan Trecartin, John Waters, Vivienne Dick, The Cockettes, John Bock, and countless others

Song for Rent

(Jack Smith, 1969)

Legendary experimental filmmaker Jack Smith appears in a red satin gown as decaying alter-ego Rose Courtyard, performing from a detritus-laden wheelchair to the patriotic strains of “God Bless America.”...