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Pat O’Neill and Mark Toscano In Conversation


Pat O’Neill has been deeply involved in Los Angeles culture since the late 1960’s. A founding father of the city’s avant-garde film scene, an influential professor at CalArts and an optical effects pioneer, he is best known for his short works from the early 1960’s onwards which are highly graphic, layered and reflexive assemblages based on a mastery of optical printing techniques.

In O’Neill’s films boundaries fade, narrative collapses and layers of imagery draw the viewer simultaneously towards and away from linear meaning. O’Neill has combined found footage with experimental montage and compositing techniques to create a graphic language that deals with how different, often disparate elements assembled together in the frame relate to one another. His innovative optical techniques anticipated our digital landscape well before its time.

Several of his many avant garde films produced between 1963 and 2006 are considered classics (especially “7362” (1967), “Runs Good” (1970), “Saugus Series” (1974), “Water and Power” (1989, “Trouble in the Image” (1996), and “The Decay of Fiction” (2002). “Water and Power”, his first 35 mm. feature, which journeys through a California of imaginary intensity, was the Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner in 1990 and hailed as a touchstone for filmmaking in the future. All his work from that decade on has been executed in 35 mm and relied upon the optical printer for principal production.



If computers could dream, Pat O’Neill might be their Sigmund Freud.
— David Pagel, L.A. Times


American Film Institute, Los Angeles, CA
Archives du Film Experimental, Avigon, France
Arts Council of Great Britain (British Film Institute), London, United Kingdom
Belgian Film Archive, Brussels, Belgium
California College of the Arts, Oakland, CA
California Institute of the Arts, Los Angeles, CA
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA
Centre Pompidou, Paris, France
Chicago Art Institute, Chicago, IL
Film Archive of India, Calcutta, India
Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris, France
Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA
Kobe College of Art, Kobe, Japan
Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA
Musee d’art moderne et d’art contemporain / Frac, Toulouse, France
National Library of Australia, Canberra, Australia
New York Public Library, New York, NY
New York University, New York, NY
Oberhausen Kurzfilmtage, Oberhausen, Germany
Otis Art Institute, Los Angeles, CA
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA
University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY


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