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Ernie Gehr

BEST KNOWN FOR his single-minded, dynamic minimalism, Ernie Gehr has also been the American avant-garde filmmaker most devoted to exploring the “intensification of nervous stimulation” that pioneer sociologist Georg Simmel identified with urban life. Gehr’s oeuvre is a tale of three cities: San Francisco (his home for the last fifteen years), Berlin (which his parents fled before his birth in 1943), and New York (where he emerged as a leading structural filmmaker in the late ’60s). It is the latter that Gehr chose to revisit on the occasion of the Museum of Modern Art’s reopening last November, premiering as new works four fragments from an unfinished city symphony, shot and abandoned in the early ’70s.

Made mainly in Manhattan public spaces using (with one exception) black-and-white film stock, these silent, polished shards—doubly excavated for having been transferred from 16 mm to digital

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