Presentations: Ken Eisenstein


In her discussion of the development and legacies of L.A. and N.Y. pop, Alexandra Schwartz, author of Ed Ruscha’s Los Angeles, traces what may have been an equally shared major development in 1960s art. However, by the early 1970s, with the West coast effectively eclipsed by the East, Schwartz identifies a re-regionalization of the L.A. art world, pinpointing a review of a New York gallery show entitled “Los Angeles ’72” in which Harold Rosenberg ponders “regionalism” as “the revolt of geography against history.” That history sometimes paves over the potholes of time’s nuanced contours is apparent to all of those who follow experimental film; yet current efforts to draw attention toward Los Angeles’ rightful place in that already strange landscape (David James et al.) provide an exciting chance to ride the bumps of an already bumpy terrain.

This presentation attempts to fill in a crack left by a single film, one that we might, to make the geography even more interesting, first approach on foreign shores. Gander at the 1963 program for the 3rd International Experimental Film Competition at Knokke-le-Zoute; on the first day of the six-day-long festival, the very first film to be shown from the United States (from entries which included Kenneth Anger’s Scorpio Rising, Stan Brakhage’s Mothlight, and Bruce Conner’s Cosmic Ray) was none other than John M. Vicario’s Shoppers Market! Here is The Film-Makers’ Cooperative’s catalog description of this now forgotten (?) film:

  1. Shoppers Market (1963) 16mm, color, sound, 22 min

  2. a documentary film of marked lyrical and experimental tendency which was photographed and recorded in a L.A. supermarket. It consists of five sequences: 1) description of people 2) comedy 3) choreographing natural movements 4) transformation of visual reality 5) empathy

Possibly inspired by the opening of the largest Shoppers Market at the time (south of downtown at 43rd Place and Central Ave [see announcement below]), this is the only film of Vicario’s distributed by the Coop. In fact, other than a credit as camera operator on Francis Ford Coppola’s Dementia 13 (1963) (Vicario was a student at UCLA with Coppola), a preliminary search for Vicario turns up nothing more than the fact that his girlfriend at the time of the shoot, Eleanor Neil (a UCLA art and design student), quickly became Eleanor Coppola.

I propose to study Shoppers Market, as well as any and all existing documentation (at the Coop, Anthology Film Archives, UCLA, etc.) related to the history of its production, exhibition, reception, and maker, in order to circle around a number of topics: UCLA’s film program in the early 1960s; the fate of a West coast film at an East coast distributor; the role, if any, that the emergence of pop had on the choice of location for this film. This last seems most crucial considering that 1962 Los Angeles saw Warhol’s first solo exhibition (and the debut of his soup cans [at Ferus Gallery]), as well as Walter Hopps’ “The New Painting of Common Objects” at the Pasadena Art Museum. What might the “lyrical” style of Shoppers Market have to say to “The Cool School” (as L.A. pop was sometimes called)?

Ken Eisenstein Bio coming soon!

John Vicario's 'Shopper's Market' vs. ‘The Cool School’

This presentation is part of the panel entitled Shopper's Market: Exhibition, Distribution and Canonization, being held on Saturday November 13, 2010 9:30am - 12:00pm in the Eileen Norris Cinema Theatre.

< Return to all Presentations