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‘Walkers: Hollywood Afterlives in Art and Artifact’ Revives Iconic Celluloid Images for the Digital Age

“If the 20th century was the century of the moving image, and the 21st century is the century of the digital image, what happens to all those celluloid signs in a virtual world?” That’s the question curator and scholar Robert M. Rubin is asking visitors of a new exhibit at New York’s Museum of the Moving Image.

Walkers: Hollywood Afterlives in Art and Artifact, which runs through April 10, presents nearly 100 works by 46 artists who appropriate and redefine the past century’s most iconic films in drawings, photographs, video, and more — like artist Yasumasa Morimura, who imagines himself as Catherine Deneuve in Luis Buñuel’s 1967 film Belle de jour.

These works are exhibited with a selection of rare film ephemera, which are presented as works of art in their own right. Given the passage of time, the show questions what these filmic objects have come to represent in the public imagination or within art history — such as the costume designs for Rosemary’s Baby and the complete original key book stills from Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 thriller The 39 Steps. The exhibition title Walkers references zombies (those depicted in the TV series The Walking Dead), visualizing the afterlife of Hollywood in our current landscape.

A screening series accompanies the exhibit, which will feature introductions by artists in the show, like Tom Sachs (who created a “Godfather viewing station,” commenting on the way we view movies on digital devices — much to David Lynch’s dismay) and others, including Guy Maddin, whose oeuvre is a rabbit-hole of cinephilia. See a preview of Walkers: Hollywood Afterlives in Art and Artifact in our gallery, with commentary from the Museum of the Moving Image.

“Bunny 2” Costume Sketch (full figure) for APOCALYPSE NOW (1979. Dir. Francis Ford Coppola). Production design by Dean Tavoularis. Drawing by Alex Tavoularis. Private collection. Photo by Genevieve Hanson. Courtesy of Museum of the Moving Image.

“This work is within the ‘Heart of Darkness’ section which surveys the different adaptations of Conrad’s novel. In Apocalypse Now there is an infamous scene where a USO show of Playboy bunnies turns into a full-on riot as the soldiers attempt to rush the stage, perhaps marking a point in the film when the subsequent scenes of American soldiers become increasingly chaotic.”

Press book for BELLE DE JOUR (1967. Dir. Luis Bunuel). Shown: cover. 12.5 x 38 inches, when open. Private collection. Photo by Genevieve Hanson. Courtesy of Museum of the Moving Image.

“This work is from the ‘Thrift Shop: I Found It at the Movies’ section, which looks at artists sampling directly from materials such as publicity photos and promotional items. When you look at it alongside the Morimura (also in this section) you can see how they play against each other.”

Yasumasa Morimura. Self-Portrait (Actress) after Catherine Deneuve 1, 1996. Ilfochrome print. 47 1⁄4 x 37 1⁄2 inches (120 x 95.2 cm). Edition of 10. Private Collection. Image courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine Gallery.

“Deneuve is a common theme for Morimura, his portraits serve as attempts by the artist to inject himself into the alternate realities of his subjects by dressing and photographing himself as them. In this case he is working directly from a publicity still of Deneuve.”

Douglas Gordon, Self-Portrait of You + Me (Dean Martin 01), 2007. Gelating silver print and mirror. 24 7/8 x 20 7/8 inches 63.2 x 53 cm. Private Collection. © Studio lost but found / 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2015. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery.

“His ‘self portraits of you + me’ series takes publicity photos of celebrities and then burns away their identifying features. He then backs them with mirrors, causing the viewer’s features to take the place of the celebrity.”

Kristen Morgin. Sophia Loren with Her Woodland Friends, 2013. Unfired clay, paint, ink, marker, crayon, wire. 14 x 11 x 1 in. Courtesy the artist and Anthony Meier Fine Arts, San Francisco. Photo by Robert Wedemeyer.

“In the case of this series, Morgin was recreating old objects out of clay and paints upon them, questioning where the value of the original object stems from (its appearance? Its content? Its condition?) as well as that of her source material — clay/earth. In this case she has recreated a Life magazine with Sophia Loren on the cover, and added paper cut outs of Disney-esque nature characters.”

Leanne Shapton. “Repulsion,” Sept. 27, 2009, 2011. Watercolor. 6 x 9.5 inches. © Leanne Shapton, courtesy of the artist

“Leanne Shapton’s Repulsion is from her book Sunday Night Movies where she recreates film stills from her favorite films in black and white watercolor. (Also from the ‘Thrift Shop: I Found it at the Movies’ section.)”

Bates Motel set design drawing from PSYCHO (1960. Dir. Alfred Hitchcock). Drawing on paper. 25.125 x 42.125 inches. Private collection. Courtesy of Museum of the Moving Image.

“This is from the ‘Dial M for Meta’ section on artists referencing Hitchcock (whom Rubin describes as the ‘most-referenced’ director among artists. The sign is in a pretty iconic establishing shot in Psycho and the object is now loaded with that sort of ominous feel.”

Richard Mosse. Platon, 2012. Digital C-Print, Edition 1 of 5, with 1 AP, Signed back label. 40 x 53.5 in. ©Richard Mosse. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery.

“This is in the ‘Heart of Darkness’ section and comes from a series of photos taken of the Congo with an infrared military-grade camera. The subject matter and choice of medium (which result in seeing the Congo literally in a different light) reflect the impact of colonialism and militarism on the country/region — which was geographically the ‘Heart of Darkness’ in Conrad’s book.”

Richard Prince, Untitled (Bob Hope), 2012. Photomil. 48 x 60 x 5 inches (121.9 x 152.4 x 12.7 cm). © Richard Prince. Photograph by Genevieve Hanson.

“This is from ‘Infinite Jests’ a section dealing with tragicomedies in art and Hollywood. In this case, Prince is referencing a time when he got into trouble as a teenager, and was sentenced to spend the summer in a ‘caddy camp.’ He and a group of teenage boys all lived in a military tent and the situation devolved into something reminiscent of Lord of the Flies.”

Press book for THE WILD BUNCH (1969. Dir. Sam Peckinpah). Shown: cover. Private collection. Photo by Genevieve Hanson. Courtesy of Museum of the Moving Image.

“This is taken from the ‘Revenant Riders’ section, which dissects the many different conventions of the Western — once one of Hollywood’s primary genres, and now almost non-existent. Among Western aficionados, The Wild Bunch is seen as sort of the big explosive finale to the Western era.”

Tom Sachs. Barry Lyndon, 2011. Synthetic polymer paint, steel, plywood. 24 x 24 x 1.5 inches. Courtesy Gallerie Thaddaeus Ropac.

“This is also from the ‘Thrift Shop: I Found it at the Movies’ section. Sachs found a very obscure logo for Barry Lyndon, one which only appears on a version of the soundtrack LP, a pin, and a handful of rare posters. He has appropriated the image and re-created it into a steel sign.”

Tom Sachs. Godfather Viewing Station, 2013. Mixed Media. 70 x 35 x 18.5 in. Courtesy of the artist.

“This work is included in ‘The Big House’ section that examines how much of the public only understands crime through what we see on film. A literal viewing station that only displays The Godfather on repeat, it pays tribute to the first truly great mafia film and also provides commentary on our tendency to view films in increasingly convenient devices. It is also one of Tom Sachs’ favorite movies, and he will introduce it at a screening at the Museum of December 6th, followed by a talk between him and Robert M. Rubin.”