Gerald O’Grady, who passed away on March 26, at the age of 87, was a figure of immense importance in film culture, especially within the realms of noncommercial, avant-garde, and socially-committed film and video. Chief among the enormous number of accomplishments that defined his career was his creation in the early 1970s of the Center for Media Study at the State University of New York, Buffalo, a pioneering program in the media arts that became one of the most important nodes for avant-garde practice and theory, due in large part to O’Grady’s hiring of filmmakers and artists such as Hollis Frampton, Tony Conrad, Paul Sharits, James Blue, Steina & Woody Vasulka, and Peter Weibel. Thanks to O’Grady and his colleagues, Buffalo continues to hold a crucial place in the history of media art in the U.S. and beyond.
In addition to his work initiating and guiding the Center for Media Study (later renamed the Department of Media Study), the indefatigable O’Grady advanced the cause of media art and noncommercial moving-image culture in many ways: he founded Media Study/Buffalo, a regional community development center that operated independently of the University; he wrote innumerable important articles on a wide variety of film- and video-makers; organized a succession of seminal conferences; curated some of the most ambitious film series of the time (including “Articulated Light: The Emergence of the Abstract Film in America” and “The Films of the Civil Rights”); and created and hosted the avant-garde cinema interview program FILM-MAKERS, which was produced in 1976, and resulted in a number of avant-garde artists (from Jonas Mekas and Robert Breer to Gunvor Nelson and Richard Leacock, among many others) discussing their work in depth on public television.
To celebrate his life and work, we offer this screening of films and videos by some of the media artists who were most important to O’Grady over the years (as well as a film documenting one of the conferences O’Grady organized and led). O’Grady was a great friend and supporter of Anthology, and above all was one of the most important advocates for the realm of cinema we were founded to celebrate and protect.
Very special thanks to Christine Downing and Teri McLuhan.