We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.


The life and work of Adam K. Beckett are the years 1968–1978 in a nutshell: He studied at Antioch, traveled in India, helped members of the Hog Farm distribute free food at Woodstock, revolutionized abstract animation as a student at CalArts, and was hired to run the rotoscope and animation department—the shop that became Industrial Light and Magic—for the making of Star Wars. That’s just about where the story ends. Beckett died at 29, two years after people got to know Luke Skywalker. Death (and, to a lesser degree, George Lucas) interrupted Beckett’s personal work, which included such experimental films as Evolution of the Red Star and Flesh Flows, as well as several unfinished projects. The animator’s technique suggests other ideas that arose in the ’70s, notably in the “phase patterns” of composers like Steve Reich. Beckett used an optical printer to create subtle deviations from original images, reshooting sequences and reframing portions of a drawing until he had a symphony of variations. The complexities of Heavy–Light, for example, evolved from only 13 drawings. Now these shorts, if not the concepts behind them, are threatened with obsolescence, since they’re available only on 16mm film. This program presents recently restored prints of several Beckett shorts, including Sausage City and Kitsch in Synch, followed by a discussion with the animator’s biographer, Pamela Turner. Perhaps Turner, a Virginia Commonwealth University professor, will even reveal how the artist died—something she sidesteps in the short bio on the Adam K. Beckett Project’s Web site. The films show at 2 p.m. at the National Gallery of Art’s East Building Auditorium, 4th St. & Constitution Ave. NW. Free. (202) 737-4215. (Mark Jenkins)