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What’s It All Mean: Films by William T. Wiley and Friends

March 30, 2010 - April 18, 2010

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Robert Nelson (left) and William Wiley (right) filming The Great Blondino. Photo: Jack Fulton.

“I identify with Fellini’s character in 8-1/2 who says, ‘I don’t have anything to say but I want to say that.’”—William T. Wiley

The artist William Wiley made one solo film, Man’s Nature, and collaborated on a handful of others with filmmaker Robert Nelson over an eleven-year period beginning in 1963. Writing in 1979 about Wiley and Nelson’s films, J. Hoberman proposed, “If there is a San Francisco style—idiosyncratic, wide-open, playfully perverse—Plastic Haircut, The Great Blondino, The Off-Handed Jape, and Deep Westurn embody it.” Wiley and Nelson both attended the San Francisco Art Institute, and were part of a circle of artists that included sculptor Robert Hudson and filmmaker/painter William Allan (both of whom had attended high school with Wiley); sculptor William Geis; and, eventually, painter, musician, and filmmaker Mike Henderson. Their camaraderie extended to collaborative projects including joint drawings, theater, and underground films. These films share a fascination with wordplay, gestural antics, alternate personas, and storytelling. The freewheeling soundtracks include sound collages by Steve Reich and improvised voice-overs by R. G. Davis, Mike Henderson, Nelson, and Wiley, while among the visuals one can find allusions to Wiley’s artwork, from rhinos, slingshots, palettes, and pyramids to the carnival figure Blondin. In conjunction with the current BAM exhibition What’s It All Mean: William T. Wiley in Retrospect, we are pleased to present three evenings with Wiley in person, featuring his own films and those of his collaborators and friends, several of whom plan to be in attendance.


Kathy Geritz
Film Curator

Tuesday, March 30, 2010
7:30 p.m. Films by Wiley and Friends
(U.S., 1963–71). William T. Wiley in person. This freewheeling program features Wiley’s one solo film, the Wavelength-inspired Man’s Nature, along with two playful works by Robert Nelson that Wiley collaborated on, Plastic Haircut and Bleu Shut. (75 mins)

Sunday, April 11, 2010
3:00 p.m. Films by Wiley and Robert Nelson
(U.S., 1967–74). William T. Wiley in person. Wiley and Robert Nelson pay offhanded homage to myths and misfits, art and the art of the gag, in Deep Westurn, What Do You Talk About, The Off-Handed Jape, and The Great Blondino. (75 mins)

Sunday, April 18, 2010
3:00 p.m. Wiley Selects
(U.S., 1968–70). William T. Wiley in person. Wiley presents inventive, imaginative films by Bay Area artist Mike Henderson—Dufus!, Money, The Last Supper, and King David (made with Robert Nelson)—along with Nelson and William Allan’s rarely seen War Is Hell. (75 mins)

Program notes by Kathy Geritz. We wish to thank William T. Wiley and Mark Toscano, Academy Film Archive preservationist, for their assistance in making this series possible. The series features many preservation prints from Academy Film Archive and from PFA’s own collection.