Neelon Crawford: Filmmaker
July 24, 2021–Spring, 2022
The Roy and Niuta Titus and Morita Galleries

The Museum of Modern Art announces Neelon Crawford: Filmmaker, an exhibition introducing the multimedia artist Neelon Crawford (American, born 1946) to contemporary audiences. Crawford was a member of the New York, San Francisco and Ohio independent filmmaking scenes from the late 1960s through the early 1980s. Describing his work from this period as “experiments in the geometry of abstraction made possible by the movie camera,” Crawford’s 16- millimeter films reflected his interests in light, movement and landscape as well as dance, and early computer graphics. Installed in the Titus galleries as a timely meditation on climate crisis and sustainability, the eight newly-restored films on view include Light Pleasures (1970), KMK Cane (1976), La Selva (1974), Lago Agrio Gas Burn (1977), Banana Leaves (1977), Ship Side Steel Plate Lights (1974), Passing (1974), and Paths of Fire II (1976). Neelon Crawford: Filmmaker is organized by Ron Magliozzi, Curator, and Brittany Shaw, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Film.

Crawford’s early years as an artist were distinguished by his restlessness, simultaneously trying his hand at photography, drawing, and painting, and as a filmmaker finding inspiration in various avant-garde moving image scenes. Crediting experimental filmmakers like Nathaniel Dorsky and Bruce Baillie as sources of inspiration, Crawford’s treatment of light and motion also reflects his kinship with filmmakers Ernie Gehr and Andrew Noren. Supporting his efforts with freelance work in film sound recording led to an infamous encounter with the Hell’s Angel’s recorded in the Maysles’ famous Rolling Stones documentary Gimme Shelter (1970).

After an intense period of screening his work in the 1970’s, including two monographic programs in MoMA’s Cineprobe series, Crawford withdrew his films from circulation in the early 1980’s when his focus became photography and painting, in the footsteps of his father, abstract artist Ralston Crawford (1906-1978). MoMA acquired Neelon’s complete catalog of 35 titles in 2016, when it also began the process of preservation. The Neelon Crawford: Filmmaker gallery exhibition will highlight 8 of these restored films.

Film at MoMA is made possible by CHANEL.

Additional support is provided by the Annual Film Fund. Leadership support for the Annual Film Fund is provided by Debra and Leon D. Black and by Steven Tisch, with major contributions from The Contemporary Arts Council of The Museum of Modern Art, Jo Carole and Ronald S. Lauder, MoMA’s Wallis Annenberg Fund for Innovation in Contemporary Art through the Annenberg Foundation, the Association of Independent Commercial Producers (AICP), The Junior Associates of The Museum of Modern Art, the Samuel I. Newhouse Foundation, Karen and Gary Winnick, and The Brown Foundation, Inc., of Houston.