THE MASTER SHOT, 1977
New Ephemera from M. Henry Jones
Back in 1978 M. Henry Jones had legendary status at the School of Visual Arts. His senior project in animation was a Herculean effort that involved printing, cutting, and coloring thousands of photographs to create a 2:22 minute film of The Fleshtones performing Soul City. Lead singer Peter Zaremba was a fellow SVA student, and dozens of classmates pitched in to help Jones with the massive project.
Jones’ concept seemed simple enough. He wanted to combine a strobe effect similar to the ones produced by experimental filmmakers Stan Brakhage and Paul Sharits with a live rock performance. But in the days before Photoshop the only way Jones could achieve his desired effect was to laboriously cut out individual stills and then reshoot them one by one while alternating the colored background.
Gallery 98 has recently acquired important new items connected to Soul City. Of special significance is the negative space cut-out from what Jones calls ‘The Master Shot’. It was created in 1977 when Jones was working with abstract film pioneer Harry Smith, and marks the origin of the animation idea that would become Soul City. Since the positive image of this cut-out is lost, the negative now stands as the key original.
‘You Can Twist / Your Can Frub / All I’m Saying is Man You Better Move On’, one of the hand-drawn animation layout sheets that Jones used to sync the numbered stills with the timing of the audio and strobe effects, is another recently acquired item. Covering only 10 seconds of the film, this layout sheet shows the incredible complexity of the project.
Gallery 98 has in the past featured an online exhibition about Soul City, and includes in its inventory a number of works by Jones. A collection of stills from Soul City was a highlight of the recent Club 57 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art. Jones is by no means a one hit wonder, his full career in animation and experimental 3-dimensional effects was the subject of a retrospective at the Burchfield Penney Art Center at SUNY Buffalo State earlier this year.