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On Tempo, YouTube

Oskar Fischinger, Hitler's Least-Favorite Animator

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On Tempo, YouTube

The worlds of animation, computer effects, music videos, and other forms of artistic expression involving the synchronization of sound to image all owe a considerable debt to Oskar Fischinger (1900-1967), a German artist who would have celebrated his 117th birthday this year.

Fischinger is famous for taking great pains to animate his short films, which used traditional cel animation, wax or clay sculpture, and charcoal drawings. Sometimes, Fischinger would paint over Plexiglas for each frame, a laborious process even for the teams of artists used in traditional animation methods. Matching the flow of his images to music, Fischinger created what he considered to be "visual music."

Fischinger first became interested in abstract moving art when he discovered Lightplay, a 1921 short that featuring gyrating geometric symbols. Working out of Berlin, Fischinger subsidized his experimental work with jobs creating special effects for features and animated advertisements. The short films, for which he remains best known, won a number of awards at European film festivals. Many were shown in cinemas before the features, and represented the first introduction to classical music for some members of the audience.

But Fischinger’s preference for the kind of non-linear, abstract work he first saw in Lightplay drew the ire of the Nazi government: Adolf Hitler had no taste for what was declared "decadent art." Leaving Germany, Fischinger found opportunities in Hollywood. The results were mixed: Working on Disney’s 1940 musical Fantasia soured him on commercial filmmaking. He considered such large-scale productions "factory work."

Because his animated films were expensive and time-consuming to make and had few ways to be monetized, Fischinger eventually turned to painting. Today, his influence can be felt practically anywhere you’ve seen images move and shift in relation to music.

Leon Hong, a creative lead on today's Google Doodle which honors Fischinger, told The Washington Post that "despite the incredible assistance of digital tools of today, the endless amount of motion graphics we see every day on TV and digital media still don’t come anywhere close to the greatness of Oskar Fischinger."

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Ape Meets Girl
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Pop Culture
Epic Gremlins Poster Contains More Than 80 References to Classic Movies
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Ape Meets Girl

It’s easy to see why Gremlins (1984) appeals to movie nerds. Executive produced by Steven Spielberg and written by Chris Columbus, the film has horror, humor, and awesome 1980s special effects that strike a balance between campy and creepy. Perhaps it’s the movie’s status as a pop culture treasure that inspired artist Kevin Wilson to make it the center of his epic hidden-image puzzle of movie references.

According to io9, Wilson, who works under the pseudonym Ape Meets Girl, has hidden 84 nods to different movies in this Gremlins poster. The scene is taken from the movie’s opening, when Randall enters a shop in Chinatown looking for a gift for his son and leaves with a mysterious creature. Like in the film, Mr. Wing’s shop in the poster is filled with mysterious artifacts, but look closely and you’ll find some objects that look familiar. Tucked onto the bottom shelf is a Chucky doll from Child’s Play (1988); above Randall’s head is a plank of wood from the Orca ship made famous by Jaws (1975); behind Mr. Wing’s counter, which is draped with a rug from The Shining’s (1980) Overlook Hotel, is the painting of Vigo the Carpathian from Ghostbusters II (1989). The poster was released by the Hero Complex Gallery at New York Comic Con earlier this month.

“Early on, myself and HCG had talked about having a few '80s Easter Eggs, but as we started making a list it got longer and longer,” Wilson told Mental Floss. “It soon expanded from '80s to any prop or McGuffin that would fit the curio shop setting. I had to stop somewhere so I stopped at 84, the year Gremlins was released. Since then I’ve thought of dozens more I wish I’d included.”

The ambitious artwork has already sold out, but fortunately cinema buffs can take as much time as they like scouring the poster from their computers. Once you think you’ve found all the references you can possibly find, you can check out Wilson’s key below to see what you missed (and yes, he already knows No. 1 should be Clash of the Titans [1981], not Jason and the Argonauts [1963]). For more pop culture-inspired art, follow Ape Meets Girl on Facebook and Instagram.

Key for hidden image puzzle.
Ape Meets Girl

[h/t io9]

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Kehinde Wiley Studio, Inc., Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
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presidents
Barack Obama Taps Kehinde Wiley to Paint His Official Presidential Portrait
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Kehinde Wiley
Kehinde Wiley Studio, Inc., Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Kehinde Wiley, an American artist known for his grand portraits of African-American subjects, has painted Michael Jackson, Ice-T, and The Notorious B.I.G. in his work. Now the artist will have the honor of adding Barack Obama to that list. According to the Smithsonian, the former president has selected Wiley to paint his official presidential portrait, which will hang in the National Portrait Gallery.

Wiley’s portraits typically depict black people in powerful poses. Sometimes he models his work after classic paintings, as was the case with "Napoleon Leading the Army Over the Alps.” The subjects are often dressed in hip-hop-style clothing and placed against decorative backdrops.

Portrait by Kehinde Wiley
"Le Roi a la Chasse"
Kehinde Wiley, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 3.0

Smithsonian also announced that Baltimore-based artist Amy Sherald has been chosen by former first lady Michelle Obama to paint her portrait for the gallery. Like Wiley, Sherald uses her work to challenge stereotypes of African-Americans in art.

“The Portrait Gallery is absolutely delighted that Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald have agreed to create the official portraits of our former president and first lady,” Kim Sajet, director of the National Portrait Gallery, said in a press release. “Both have achieved enormous success as artists, but even more, they make art that reflects the power and potential of portraiture in the 21st century.”

The tradition of the president and first lady posing for portraits for the National Portrait Gallery dates back to George H.W. Bush. Both Wiley’s and Sherald’s pieces will be revealed in early 2018 as permanent additions to the gallery in Washington, D.C.

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