David Lynch: The Unified Field

In 1967 as an advanced painting student at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia (PAFA), David Lynch made a hybrid work of art that brought together painting, sculpture, sound, film, and installation. Six Men Getting Sick (1967) expanded Lynch’s practice and opened him up to the possibilities of filmmaking. He went on to become internationally renowned as a film director but never stopped working as a visual artist. Lynch has maintained a devoted studio practice, developing a parallel body of painting, prints, photography, and drawing that deserves to be better known. In many ways his identity as an American artist brings together all aspects of his creative life into a unified field of subjects and concerns.

David Lynch: The Unified Field will be Lynch’s first major museum exhibition in the United States, organized in close collaboration with the artist. It will bring together approximately 90 paintings and drawings from 1965 to present. Part of the exhibition will explore Lynch’s early work, much of which has never been displayed in public. Six Men Getting Sick will be restaged for the first time and presented with related drawings. Several early short films, made in Philadelphia, will also be on display.

To complement the exhibition, PAFA presents Something Clicked in Philly: David Lynch and His Contemporaries in the Richard C. von Hess Foundation Works on Paper Gallery, on view September 13 — December 28, 2014. For more information about the painting curriculum at PAFA, where David Lynch was trained as a visual artist, click here.

David Lynch sits down with Kristine McKenna for a Q&A. This was part of the David Lynch retrospective that took place in Philadelphia. Immediately after the interview was a screening of Lost Highway on 35mm.

If you are a fan of David Lynch, Pretty as a Picture: The Art of David Lynch (1997) is essential viewing. It was mainly filmed during the making of Lost Highway and most of the features are set around that film, but there is also some other scenes like the reunion of Eraserhead, where Lynch along with some of the cast and crew return to the Stables location where it was filmed and reminisce over the trials of the making of the film. Also featured is Lynch’s trip to Prague along with the composer on most of his films, Angelo Badalamenti, and his love of the sound and music which is so important in his films. His paintings and photography are shown, too, and his fascination with ants and animals in his art. There is a rare look at his early short films, Six Men Getting Sick, The Alphabet and The Grandmother, and his former wife Peggy’s views on them. This is a fascinating and interesting behind the scenes look at this distinctive filmmaker, artist and photographer’s work.

Toby Keeler, with his unlimited access to David Lynch — behind the scenes during his films, with friends and family and collaborators, and in his painting process — has a documentary that’s essential to get at least a glimpse into a man and his work like this. Lynch’s films are abstractions, nightmarish landscapes and what is just around the corner in the seemingly brightest sides of small-town American life, and his art is a reflection not just of his own interpretations of people and places that are usually conventional, but that this interpretation springs out so many ideas that would not be there otherwise without the specific framework he’s chosen. One of the most fascinating examples of this method of Lynch’s in being a true master of mood is with Eraserhead; he worked five years on the film, and Keeler shows us Lynch and old friends walking around where the original sets were, and with this revealing how after two years of painstakingly filming a movie (a shot a night, nevermind a scene, depending on the lighting), a rhythm developed that was unmistakable. If one of the primary goals of an artist is to transport people to another place that is unconventional, but still grounded in recognizable emotional connections, Lynch is such an artist, as revealed here fully.

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