“To film is a necessity,” Jonas Mekas once said
, “like eating, sleeping, breathing.” The artist
was compelled to record the things around him in the form of what he referred to as “film diaries”—unvarnished, unpretentious documents somewhere between arthouse cinema and home movies. These idiosyncratic works captured Mekas’s friends, loved ones, and peers, famous and otherwise.
Since arriving in New York in the late 1940s, he found his eternal muse in the city, which is itself a primary subject of his oeuvre. And Mekas also helped establish an actual framework for experimental film in New York, through publications like Film Culture magazine (which lasted until 1996) and the Anthology Film Archives, which remains an important part of the local cultural scene. The art world embraced him equally, and Mekas was a highlight of major exhibitions, from the 2005 Venice Biennale to Documenta 14. There, he showed works that included Lost Lost Lost (1976), which gives a hint of his singular and highly personal process; the 180-minute epic was filmed between 1949 and 1963, but remained unedited until 1976.