Perhaps America’s most important artist from the last fifty years, Jack Smith is simultaneously hailed as t...
Perhaps America’s most important artist from the last fifty years, Jack Smith is simultaneously hailed as the godfather of performance art, a groundbreaking photographer and the ‘William Blake of film’. His utopian ideals, artistic processes and bejeweled artworks left no generation untouched since, and became essential influences to contemporary art superstars like Andy Warhol, Federico Fellini and Matthew Barney.
In her feature-length film debut, director Mary Jordan combines Smith’s rare and unseen films and photographs with rare audio recordings, acting appearances, and other relics squeezed from Smith’s vaulted archives. Commentaries from art luminaries, critics and Smith’s friends and enemies (such as screenwriter/playwright Ronald Tavel, New York Observer critic Andrew Sarris, transvestite extraordinaire Mario Montez, and filmmaker Ken Jacobs) intercut Smith himself proffering condemnations of capitalism, critics and institutional-art “gatekeepers.” Jordan also delves into Smith’s tenuous relationship with Andy Warhol—who adopted Smith’s ideas and actors in his own work (including Smith’s “Superstars” concept), his vilification of New American cinema pioneer Jonas Mekas, and other previously undocumented biographical topics.
From the Whitney to the Louvre, Smith is acknowledged as one of America’s most influential artists, yet his legacy remains at the edges of obscurity. Pure in his artistic pursuits, Smith smashed head-on into the politics intersecting creativity, capitalism and meaning in contemporary art. Since his 1989 death, Smith’s work has been rarely publicly displayed. Still his influence pervades contemporary art and pop-culture today. This documentary portrait pays homage to New York’s ultimate anti-hero and the original King of the Underground.