Tommy Hartung’s Underground Movies is as much a portrait of a studio as it is an artist.
When I first visited Tommy’s studio, my first thought was, “Okay…I know one of the grand ambitions for New York Close Up is to shoot with artists outside their studios…but let’s make an exception here.” Theatrically lit with Lite Brite-like LEDs—casting an otherworldly glow—and filled with visually arresting objects including older work and Tommy’s newest project, the studio was cinematically irresistible as pre-made “b-roll.”
Not to say that the shoot itself, and later the edit, didn’t present some challenges. Or maybe, more accurately, we created some self-imposed ones. For us, the challenge that made the most sense was much like the one Tommy has given himself: how little do we have to do in order tell our first story about Tommy? Inspired by Tommy’s thoroughly experimental process, and with his edit coming after a series of more conventionally constructed narratives, we thought, “Why not? Let’s got more experimental.” Or at the very least more oblique, more elliptical. In the end, I think that route was more true to both Tommy and his practice.
ABOVE: Artist Tommy Hartung making a stop-motion animation in his studio. Ridgewood, Queens, 02.09.11. Production still from the series New York Close Up. © Art21, Inc. 2011.