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Pat O'Neill

American, b. 1939

Let's Make a Sandwich
1978 (digital edit 2015)

3-channel digital edit (7:38) on a loop from a 1-channel 16mm film (18 min.)
in. (cm)
Gift of the Kathryn C. Wanlass Foundation

Pat O’Neill’s Let’s Make a Sandwich is a montage of found industrial film footage along with personally shot material. Some fragments presented in their original state appear as an arbitrary collection of incidents: a woman stroking her face, a buoy rocking on the ocean, a man ogling an attractive model in a cigarette commercial, and a girl watching a woman as she spoons food onto two slices of bread. Alternating with this illusionistic imagery are interludes in which found footage has been solarized or reexposed during development and transformed into pulsating two-dimensional abstract shapes. As many as twenty layers of these have been superimposed to create a dense field of patterns, so rapidly changing as to be almost unassimilable. Temporally the film “sandwiches” the realistic and the abstract sequences, while the latter are themselves spatially sandwiched within the emulsion of the film. Initially rear-projected as a loop on a freestanding screen at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, this single- channel version of the film has recently been reconstructed in a three-screen version in which the central screen (where the instructional sandwich-making lm in fact appears) is sandwiched by the screens on either side.

A decade earlier, Bruce Conner—an artist often compared to O’Neill—had pseudonymously published a photo-essay entitled “Bruce Conner Makes a Sandwich,” a parody of an Art News series that in 1951 included “Pollock Paints a Picture.” O’Neill’s contribution to this tradition recalls both Conner’s faux pedagogy and Pollock’s all-over visual composition. But it also marks a departure: the implication that the composition will instruct or otherwise involve the spectator. Sandwiched between its maker and us, O’Neill’s film invites us to apprehend and be nourished by its scintillating chaos.

David E. James

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