new-york

“The Heavenly Tree Grows Downward: Harry Smith/Philip Taaffe/Fred Tomaselli”

James Cohan Gallery | Chelsea

Harry Smith (1923–91) is today remembered mostly as an avant-garde filmmaker and musicologist. During the 1940s, he made the first frame-by-frame handpainted films in America, and his later works in cinema are widely accepted as masterpieces of alchemical collage animation, among them his film Mahagonny, 1970–80, a four-screen two-hour-and-twenty-one-minute epic based on the Brecht-Weil opera. Three of his many ethnographic collections (Smith called them “encyclopedias of design”)—the Paper Airplane Collection, the Seminole Patchwork Quilt Collection, and the String Figures Collection—are now in the Smithsonian Institution. When Smithsonian Folkways released his Anthology of American Folk Music in 1952—compiling selected cuts from Smith’s collection of rare 78 rpm recordings of American traditional music from the ’20s and ’30s—it inspired the folk revival and exerted

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