Deep amid the wild bush of artisanal cheese shops and towering condos stands Nitehawk Cinema, a cavernous theater located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It’s a relaxing place where you can get a beer in the lobby, enjoy the newest independent fare with a date, or sit alone and slobber over brunch for one (served right to your seat!). If watching the newest indie rom-com isn’t your thing, your best bet is to head down on Saturday mornings for ART SEEN, a program of artist related films ranging from documentaries to experimental shorts.
“We wanted to head out with new stuff to get people familiar with the program and then show some deeper cuts along the way,” said Caryn Coleman, programmer of the series, in a phone conversation. So far this summer, they have screened “The Cool School,” Morgan Neville’s documentary about the origins of Los Angeles’ contemporary art scene, and “Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters,” a deeply personal documentary about the famous photographer which Coleman said was “probably one of the best artist documentaries I’ve ever seen.”
For Coleman, who works at Nitehawk, ART SEEN is a personal project. “My main background is in art, not in film. It was a good way to combine the two. And my interests, maybe in the past four or five years, have been leaning toward artist moving images. So it made sense.”
As the summer closes, the program will move away from documentaries, for a time, toward more narrative and experimental films. Documentaries “tend to get more people in the door,” Coleman said, and the response so far has been very positive. “Beautiful Losers,” Aaron Rose and Joshua Leonard’s documentary about the intersection of the art world and skate culture in the 1990s, will be the final documentary to screen this summer, part of a group of films Coleman informally calls “underground heroes making it.”
In September, ART SEEN will offer a double feature, presenting the work of Chris Marker and avant-garde filmmaker Ben Rivers on the same program. “[Rivers] was on top of my list when we started the series,” Coleman said. “We’re having this time travel-post-apocalyptic September programming with our other rep programs, and I thought it was perfect to put ‘Slow Action’ with ‘La Jetee.’ Both films are short, and it will be interesting to see the two of them together.”
In the next couple of months, Coleman plans to screen films from artists such as Aida Ruilova and Shezad Dawood, along with a dip into old Hollywood with Albert Lewin’s classic Oscar Wilde adaptation “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” and Edgar G. Ulmer’s 1944 “Bluebead,” something of a dream pick by Coleman for the program. “I think it’s the ultimate depiction of failure of an artist on film,” she said.
If you’re an artist, you might want to skip that one.