Harry Smith: The Avant-Garde in the American Vernacular now available for pre-order!


This new, wide-ranging study of Harry Smith's life and work, published by the Getty, will be available on November 30th. It's being sold for pre-order on Amazon and at the Getty bookstore.

Filmmaker, musicologist, painter, ethnographer, graphic designer, mystic, and collector of string figures and other patterns, Harry Smith (1927-1991) was among the most original creative forces in postwar American art and culture, yet his life and work remain poorly understood. Today he is remembered primarily for his Anthology of American Folk Music (1952)--an idiosyncratic collection of early recordings that educated and inspired a generation of musicians and roots music fans--and for a body of innovative abstract and nonnarrative films. Constituting a first attempt to locate Smith and his diverse endeavors within the history of avant-garde art production in twentieth-century America, the essays in this volume reach across Smith's artistic oeuvre.

In addition to contributions by Paul Arthur, Robert Cantwell, Thomas Crow, Stephen Fredman, Stephen Hinton, Greil Marcus, Annette Michelson, William Moritz, and P. Adams Sitney, the volume contains numerous illustrations of Smith's works and a selection of his letters and other primary sources.

Andrew Perchuk is assistant director for Contemporary Programs and Research at the Getty Research Institute. Rani Singh is senior research associate in Contemporary Programs and Research at the Getty Research Institute as well as the director of the Harry Smith Archives.

posted Saturday, November 14, 2009


Holland Cotter: Gaze East and Dream

A Review of the “The Third Mind: American Artists Contemplate Asia, 1860-1989” at the Guggenheim Museum

The New York Times, January 29, 2008

"Where an artist like Harry Smith fits in is harder to say. Chronologically he was a Beat. But his short animated films blending Tantrism, Theosophy, Orientalist Pop and Alastair Crowley, all to a cool jazz score, don’t feel period specific. They could be hippie ’60s. They could be by young artists today. (It’s important to note that the show barely touches on Islamic Asia, specifically on Sufism, in which Mr. Smith was interested.)"

posted Friday, February 6, 2009