A. Zuokas

Jonas Mekas: a story of the New York avant-garde

The godfather of avant-garde cinema; one of New York’s legends, and a friend of Yoko Ono, John Lennon, Andy Warhol and Allen Ginsberg. Jonas Mekas (1922-2019) who has received a Lithuanian National Prize for Culture and Arts and resides in New York, is referred to as one of the most prominent artists of the 20th century. Many years ago in the US, he began to film scenes from the lives of Lithuanian immigrants after borrowing some money and purchasing his first “Bolex” filming apparatus. Later, he delved headlong into avant-garde cinema, arranged movie festivals, wrote critiques of movies and helped establish the Anthology Film Archives, an archive of American avant-garde films that is one of the largest in the world. Although now in his 90s, he continues to write reviews for The New York Times, publishes books and organises festivals at which he gives talks to attendees and conducts interviews in person, while his films are presented at global-scale film festivals. Jonas Mekas has given Fluxus, a tremendous collection accumulated over many years that includes work by world-renowned artists, as a gift to Vilnius. In 2007, a visual arts centre named after him was founded in the city.

“There is no doubt that the films created by Jonas Mekas embody the spirit of the time. Through fleeting images at once poetic and empirical, they reveal what life used to be like in New York during one of the most productive decades of its history.” Journalist Joseph Jon Lanthier 

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