Pasadena Star News

June 1995

Art Alliance Brings Gallery to Theaters

By Andrea Kowalski

Pasadena- After 40 years, the Pasadena Art Alliance still wields a big artistic stick.

The Art Alliance, an organization of 175 women dedicated to promoting and preserving modern art, is backing “Projections” which will put the works of nine regional and national artists onto the screens of area movie theaters.

“You actually get to see an exhibition without having to go to a museum,” said project co- curator karen Atkinson.

Commissioned specifically for the theater, the photo-based slides are being created by artist including Carrie Mae Weems, Connie Hatch, Mitchell Syrop, and Yong Soon Min.

“The theater is a great gallery for artists- it will put public art out there to a captive audience,” said Art Alliance President Sue Cross.

The six- week project is scheduled to being in January at the Old Pasadena8 theaters and will encompass 72,000 showings.

“It’s not as much educating the public as sharing with (the public),” Atkinson said.

Sharing is not a foreign concept to the group.  Since its inception in 1955, it has given more than $2 million to the Pasadena arts community. The group celebrated its 40- year anniversary at the Pacific Asia Museum last week with a luncheon.

“We’re a bunch of wild, fun- loving, money- raising” art advocates, Cross said.


LA Weekly 

January 26- February 1, 1996


Trailer Park

- Peter Frank

As movie theaters go, there are art houses and, now, there are Art houses. Beginning next Thursday in Pasadena’s Old Town, starting up a week later in Baldwin Hills, and coming soon to a theater near you. “PROJECTIONS: intermission images” offers a selection of images created by contemporary artists expressly to be interspersed among all the coming- attraction trailers, concession pitches, audience admonitions, lauds for Dolbny and neo- Todd-AO, and other pre- feature visual noise. Organized by Karen Atkinson, Sylvia Bowyer, and Deborah Edwards, “PROJECTIONS” draws on the visual talents and media savvy of 10 cutting edge photographers, filmmakers, videastes, montaguers, installators and miscellaneous conceptualists. Save for Connie Hatch, Martha Rosler and Josh Neufeld, the artistic intermissionaries- including Pat Ward Williams, Jo Ann Callis, Mitchell Syrop, Morgan Fisher, Yong Soon Min, Ulyssess Jenkins and Atkinson herself- inhabit Tinseltown and environs. But the magic world of the silver screen is only one of several subjects addressed by the images; the environment, affirmative action and political funding priorities are among the targets of the “PROJECTIONS” artists’ stark graphics and cryptic encodings. Pass the Pop corn.


LOS ANGELES TIMES- Saturday, January 27, 1996

A Project that Gives New Meaning to the Term ‘Art House’

-Art: After a decade, Karen Atkinson is about to see her dream of exhibiting original artworks in slide form at movie theaters come true.  But she’s not completely satisfied.

After six months of organizing and negotiating, artist Karen Atkinson thought her unusual notion to exhibit original artworks in slide form at movie theaters between films was about to happen.

Ten works, all of them original images designed for the project by artists- nearly all of whom are from Southern California- were to be projected on 20 screens at two movie theaters: the AMC Old Pasadena 8 and the Sony magic Johnson Theaters in Baldwin Hills. Now only six of the artworks have bee approved by the organization responsible for the theaters’ filler time, leaving some of the artists charging for censorship.

Atkinson, co- curator of the project has paid $6,000 as a fee to show the slides, which are hardly mistakable for popcorn ads.  They use visual imagery and text to make social or political commentary, some of it quite subtle, some of it more direct.

Atkinson and all of the artists knew from the start that they gad to work within the printed guidelines of the National Cinema Network, which oversees the filler material at movie theaters nationwide and states in its guidelines that it shall determine what gets screened.

Indeed, in working with the NCN, all the artists have had somewhat alter their slides, either by changing text, or in most cases, adding their names to the images to clearly distinguish the works from NCN material, said Atkinson, who curated “ PROJECTIONS: intermission images” with Washington, D.C., artist Sylvia Bowyer.

But at the last minute, the NCN- which first saw most of the works in October- raised new objections, said Atkinson, who has made slides art since the 1970s.

Among the rejected slides is Pat Ward Williams’ image of a black man’s hand beside the statement, “copying everybody else, all the time, one day the monkey…cut his own throat.”

Yong Soon Min’s nixed work adds the words “Colorblind Meritocracy” to a dollar bill’s pyramid symbol, along with the legend “ Colorblindness is a congenital defect not a social cure,” a comment she says, on battles over affirmative action and Proposition 187.

The six NCN- approved slides will be shown for six weeks starting Friday at the Pasadena theater starting Feb. 9 in Baldwin hills.

“When we presented the slides to the NCN,” Atkinson said earlier this week,” they told us what changes to make to get the slides accepted, so in all good faith, we negotiated to make the slides work for them, but they didn’t tell us [all of] what was not acceptable.  ]The rejected slides were] a huge surprise after we bent over backward to make things OK for them.”

The NCN, however, which requires that all slide imagery be “rated G,
 devoid of references to alcohol and “pain” or “stress”, asserts that’s its concerns about some of the slides had been voiced from the start and that it is following its usual sign-off procedures.

Its regulations note that all photographic content “ is subject to review by the NCN senior management,” which gives the final approval.

“Not all the slide [were shown to the NCN] at the beginning,” said Michele Lee, executive director of marketing for the Kansas City headquartered NCN, “and [the NCN told the curators that] certain slides were considered controversial at the beginning.”

Asking the curators to change the slides did not mean final approval would be automatically given upon execution of the changes, Lee said.  “We made it very clear that [the NCN staffer who asked for the changes] was not the only decision-maker” in a multilayered approval process.

The NCN, which leases time from individual theaters to run ads and its “On-Screen Entertainment Program” of movie facts, serves audiences of all ages, Lee said, “so we’re very, very careful. Slides can have no nudity and we don’t want any controversial issues or anything that could be construed as such.” Pain can’t be mentioned because “our patrons go to theaters to have an enjoyable experience.”

“Projections” artist Martha Rosler of New York, who created a rejected work with Josh Neufeld, is dismayed that the NCN thinks “the public needs to be protected from indisputable fact.” Her slide, with an image of a schoolhouse and a prison, asserts that the “California budget for prisons now exceeds [ the state] budget for higher education, “ a fact” printed in the New York Times and elsewhere, she said.

Other than to call the rejected slides potentially controversial or not “G-rated,” Lee would not say what the NCN found objectionable. She did not say that racial issues had no bearing.

“If I were a parent [watching a film] with a 5-year-old,” Lee said “I just wouldn’t feel comfortable with certain of those slides.”

Earlier in the process. Atkinson had said she would claim censorship only if slides were shown, then yanked by the NCN, so she is hesitant to make the charge now. She says she’s just reeling from all of the negotiation from the project, which she has been trying to launch for a decade, has required.

“We embarked on the project with full knowledge” of potential road blocks, she said, which is what made it an interesting challenge. “It’s just been a little more interesting than we thought.”

Atkinson plans to show all 10 slides, including her own, at a free, public reception Thursday at 7pm at the Pasadena theater and later at traditional art venues.


Pasadena Star- News 

February 5, 1996

Four Images in cinema slide show banned

By Tania Soussan

Amid controversy about the content of the show, a pioneering public art exhibit has premiered in Old Pasadena.  A selection of six original images will be projected among the popcorn and film trivia slides shown before movies at AMC Old Pasadena 8 theater through March 14. Another show starts next at the Sony Magic Johnson Theaters in Los Angeles.

The show, called “ Projections: Intermission Images” and sponsored by the Pasadena Art Alliance, encountered resistance from the organization responsible for filler time at theater across the country.

The private National Cinema Network, which requires that everything screened meets its guidelines- imagery must be “ super G- rated” and absent of nudity and references to alcohol or tobacco- first requested changes in some slides, then banned four of the 10 submitted.

The computer- generated images, most by Southern California artists and all designed in slide format with the context of a movie theater in mind, have a strong social and political bent, conveying messages with imagery and text.

“Our main overall policy is we don’t do anything controversial,” said Michele Lee, executive director of marketing for NCN, “ We are very cognizant of out age demographics, which could be anywhere from 5 to 75.”

Lee said everything shown in NCN’s premovie “On- Screen Entertainment Program” must be appropriate for all audiences- whether they are seeing “the Lion King” or “Diehard.”

“What we had was basically a misunderstanding,” said Washington, D.C., artist Sylvia Bowyer, who curated the show with Los Angeles artists Karen Atkinson and Deborah Edwards.

Nevertheless, the artists found it heartbreaking to lose four slides, she said.  Among those rejected were “Hollywood Suite” a candy and popcorn lined street below the Hollywood Hills, and “Incarceration: A Growth Industry”, a commentary on the state budget for prisons compared with spending for education. 

About a year ago, the Pasadena Art Alliance, a 40- year- old contemporary art group, donated $13,000 to get the project off of the ground.  The Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department and individual donors also helped finance it.

Marsha Bohr of the Pasadena Art Alliance said the organization was attracted to the opportunity to reach many people.

“It’s such an intriguing idea to have art juxtaposed to what’s going on in the theaters these days,” Bohr said. “It’s a very creative idea.”

Although some art supporters attending a Thursday night screening where all 10 slides were shown were confused by the format, most spoke out against the ban on the four slides.

“I have trouble with who decides what’s not going to be used,” said Toni Bird.  “ I don’t believe in art being censored, but I do have problems with anybody’s feelings being hurt.”

All 10 images are available in a catalog on two Viewmaster reels- plastic red binocular style viewers that are most often a toy.

“We didn’t want to reproduce the images on paper because it wouldn’t look the same, Atkinson said. “It’s a completely wacky thing to do. We were trying to look for a vehicle in which it was easy to see the slides…It’s never been done before.”

The catalog, which also comes with two essays and, of course, a Viewmaster, sells for $16.50 at UCLA’s Armand Hammer Museum of Art and Cultural Center.


BUZZ Magazine

March 1996

Pop(corn) Art

For the first time, you can see original art on a movie theater screen. Fine art, that is. Ten years in the making PROJECTIONS: INTERMISSION IMAGES is a collection of original work created specifically to be projected onto the big screen amid the trivia questions and popcorn promos that are supposed to keep us distracted while we wait for the show to begin. Who says your local Cineplex doesn’t bring you culcha? AMC Old Pasadena 8 Thater, One Colorado, old Town Pasadena project; through Mar. 14.



Oct 20, 1996


March 1996

“Projections: intermission images” at the AMC Old Pasadena 8 and the Sony Magic Johnson Theaters

 - Charlene Ruth

Karen Atkinson and Sylvia Bowyer have collaborated on a project entitled Projections: intermission images. Atkinson, who has been planning the project for ten years, is based in Los Angeles, and Bowyer recently relocated from LA to Virginia. They paid a $6,000 fee to guarantee projection space, with the intention of showing slides of the work of ten artists  movie theaters, AMC Old Pasadena 8 and the Sony Magic Johnson theaters in Baldwin Hills, during intermission- before and after feature films.

The slide collection featured work by one East Coast duo, Martha Rosler and Josh Neufeld, but that and three other slides were dropped from the original roster of ten images after a determination by National Cinema Network, a Midwestern firm, that they did not fit within the parameters of the required “G” rating.  NCN supervises intermission material for movie theaters across the United States and has published its position as the decision- maker regarding content in its guidelines; a “G” rating mandates that projected imagery avoid mention of alcohol, “pain” or “stress.”  NCN previewed materials submitted by Atkinson and Bowyer several months prior to the debut of the project.

Changes were recommended and changed were made. More recently, the four slides were determined by NCN to contain references that fell within its definitions of those terms, and the slides were rejected.  According to Atkinson, in a remark printed in the LA Times in January, “Earlier in the process I had said I would claim censorship only if slides were shown, then yanked by NCN, and so I am reluctant to do so now.”

Seven Los Angeles area- based artists have been included in the project: Atrkinson, Jo Ann Callis, Morgan Fisher, Ulysses Jenkins, Yong Soon Min, Mitchell Syrop, and Part Ward Williams. Connie Hatch, a San Francisco artist, also is a member of the original ten. The work of Min and Williams was among the rejected material. The slides prepared for the project by the art-makers were original works, not reproductions of previously extended works. The curators asked that they consider movie theater space, in conjunction with random placement among ads and trivia games, as a context.  Each image is scheduled  to be shown three or four times during the intermissions, to an estimated cumulative audience of 350,000. in general, the content of the slides is expressed by combinations of representational imagery, often computer- generated photos, juxtaposed with an explicatory or amplifying piece of text. The messages are mostly social and political.

Projection: intermission images raises its head like a bull in a china shop, with a promise to rattle discourses surrounding issues of censorship, context, public art, reproduction, reduplication, public versus private versus entrepreneurial space, viewer privilege, and the relationship between entertainment and art. The reduction of the number of slides from ten to six, by a non-arts organization that specializes n damping down the possibility for certain kinds of responses by audience members in movie theaters, constitutes a fragment or one thread of the potential text spun by this non- traditional presentation of images.  The exhibition raises many questions, however: Can slides of this mature, in this context, be called art or are they propaganda? Is this public art? Does repetition, as it occurs here, become reduplication, and what is the relationship between this and reproduction? Is the space of the movie theater public or private? Where does the entrepreneur fit into the scenario?  Does the viewer who has paid for admission to a specific entertainment event establish a relationship with the screen that should be inviolable in some ways- a private space? And if that same individual has purchased entertainment, is it ethical to slip art, like a Mickey Finn, into his/her escapist fantasy? Faced with the glittering array of questions raised by this project, I find myself desiring in much the same way as Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe professed at the first of the Otis College of Art and Design’s 1996 Trustees’ lecture Series at  Sotheby’s in L.A., an allocation of space or more words.