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Léopold Survage, "Colored Rhythm: Study for the Film"

Video transcript
(music) - [Jodi Hauptman] Leopold Survage created this series called Colored Rhythm. He had this idea about making abstract film, this idea that Survage himself said to throw off paintings last shackle, and that is immobility, making painting move. And part of that was related to other kinds of movement happening in the ever growing cities at that moment. The invention of the automobile, the airplane, the incredible spectacle of the city, the lights, and even the beginnings of cinema, which first began in 1893, so when Survage is thinking about making his film, it's only about 20 years in. He turned to the thing he knew best, and that was drawing. He chose a very smooth paper. there was no resistance from bumps or bulges. He started with a black ink. He created a shape around the edges of the picture and then he filled it in with these very beautiful washes of watercolor. Ink is not water soluble. And then when he went back in with the water color, it would stay in place. And that allowed him to create these beautiful washes one after another. He captured one of the primary qualities of cinema, and that is light. They have a kind of glow, a luminosity that is not dissimilar from what you see when you're sitting in a movie theater. When you lay out the series, you see how one shape feeds into another shape into another shape. Some of the critics at the time who knew these drawings, talked about the relationship to something organic, to plants, things that swell and grow and deflate and grow again. He made over 100 drawings with the idea that eventually technicians would actually animate them. He understood that he himself couldn't do it, but unfortunately, because of the onset of World War 1, the film was never actually made. He was trained as a painter, a very traditional painter, but his ability to think outside of that training and to imagine something that he didn't have any idea of how to make is just an incredible act of risk, that I think is crucial for this moment. The best artists are those that were able to take risks.