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John Mitchell | Blackout

March 13 – 23, 2024

Opening Reception: Wednesday, March 13, 2024, 5-7PM

Planthouse Gallery is pleased to open BLACKOUT: Paintings & Drawings by John Mitchell for Larry Fessenden’s independent feature film BLACKOUT. This exhibition will run in conjunction with the film premiere and screening at IFC Center, at 323 Sixth Avenue at West 3rd Street, NY, NY.

View selected works in the exhibition.

In November 2019, artist John Mitchell, continuing a mission to pay homage to artists he admires, invited one of his favorite indie horror movie directors, Larry Fessenden, to sit for a painted portrait in his Brooklyn studio.  During the session, the two found many common interests, including Mitchell’s own obsession with the history of the werewolf motif manifested by startling “werewolf self-portraits” from his college days. Their ensuing conversations about art, horror films and lycanthropy lead to a 3-year journey that culminates with the release on March 13th of Fessenden’s film BLACKOUT and this art exhibit that highlights their collaboration. 
After their first encounter, Fessenden made the protagonist in the film a fine arts painter, and invited Mitchell to make the paintings and drawings needed for the film, which progress in the story from pastoral landscape paintings to subjective, tortured self-portraits.  BLACKOUT commences with a glimpse of Mitchell’s recreation of a work that has been an important inspiration to him for decades: Albrecht Dürer’s engraving Melencolia I from 1514 which sets up the mental orientation of the film’s protagonist. The movie goes on to feature many of Mitchell’s landscapes from his private collection as well as specific paintings of locations from the script: trees, a farm stand, a stream. In creating the increasingly anguished portraits for the movie, Fessenden and Mitchell discussed infusing the paintings with references to the work of Goya and Francis Bacon.

After BLACKOUT’s initial premier at Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal, Canada, on July 20, 2023, Fessenden was inspired to make one last revision to the movie, and Mitchell was tasked with creating a series of pen and ink portraits of the protagonist, portrayed by actor Alex Hurt, transforming into a werewolf. It took over 150 individual drawings created over three months to complete the additional 20-second animated sequence in the film. Says Fessenden: “The movie is a genre film, of course, but it is also a record of the collaboration between two creators with a great devotion to the potency of art and process in different mediums.” 

John Mitchell (b. 1971) was born in Illinois and now lives and works in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Mitchell received a BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1995 and an MFA from Yale University in 1999. His first one-person exhibitions in NYC were at Alexandre De Folin Gallery in 1999 and RIVA Gallery in 2003. Since then, Mitchell has been actively exhibiting in and out of New York City. In 2015, Mitchell was awarded an Art Symposium Residency at Austevoll Kunstforening, Austevoll, Norway; in 2016 attended the Emerson Landing Residency in Wye Mills, Maryland. Among others, Mitchell’s work has been reviewed by John Yau for Hyperallergic and Karen Wilkin for The Hudson Review.

About Larry Fessenden and Glass Eye Pix:
Glass Eye Pix (“one of the indie scene’s most productive and longest-running companies” — Filmmaker Magazine) is the fierce independent NYC-based production outfit headed by art-horror auteur Larry Fessenden (Blackout, Depraved, The Last Winter, Wendigo, Habit, No Telling, Beneath, ABC's of Death 2, NBC's Fear Itself episode Skin and Bones). Fessenden — winner of the 1997 Someone to Watch Spirit Award — has operated the company since 1985, with the mission of supporting individual voices in the arts. The subject of a 26-film retrospective at The Museum of Modern Art in April 2022, Glass Eye Pix has produced numerous critically acclaimed films in and out of the horror genre, including Crumb Catcher (2023, Chris Skotchdopole — Audience Award and Best Ensemble award, Brooklyn Horror Film Fest), Foxhole (2022, Jack Fessenden — winner best ultra indie, Woodstock Film Fest), The Ranger (2018, Jenn Wexler), Like Me (2017, Robert Mockler), Most Beautiful Island (2017, Ana Asensio — winner best feature SXSW, 2017), Stray Bullets (2017, Jack Fessenden), The House of the Devil and The Innkeepers by Ti West, I Sell the Dead by Glenn McQuaid, the vampire saga Stake Land (Jim Mickle — winner of the Audience Award at the 2010 Toronto Film Festival's Midnight Madness), The Comedy (2012, Rick Alverson), Wendy and Lucy (2009, Kelly Reichardt) and Liberty Kid (2008, Ilya Chaiken). Glass Eye Pix produces books, comics and the critically acclaimed audio podcast Tales From Beyond the Pale, co-created with Glenn McQuaid. Fessenden is the author along with Graham Reznick of the acclaimed Bafta-winning Sony Playstation video game Until Dawn. As an actor, Fessenden has appeared in over 100 films, including Killers of the Flower Moon (Martin Scorsese), The Dead Don't Die (Jim Jarmusch), River of Grass (Kelly Reichardt), In a Valley of Violence (Ti West) and Brooklyn 45 (Ted Geoghegan).

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