June 30–October 30, 2016
The Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco
Anastasia James, Managing Curator
Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition is the first retrospective exhibition of the legendary filmmaker’s work. Born in 1928, Stanley Kubrick was raised in a middle-class Jewish family in the Bronx, in New York City. After working as a photographer for LOOK magazine, he began making short films on a shoestring budget, and made his first major Hollywood film, The Killingin 1956. Following the release of two feature-length films, Paths of Glory (1957) and Spartacus (1960), his reputation was established. Over five decades, Kubrick utterly reconceived each genre in which he worked, taking on a broad variety of subjects, themes, and ideas, producing and directing such masterpieces as: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), A Clockwork Orange (1971), Barry Lyndon (1975), and The Shining (1980). Kubrick reinvented his visual style with each film while repeatedly touching on a set of preoccupations, such as social psychology in an increasingly technological world, alienation and sociopathology, and the impact of bureaucracy and government on individuals. Because his films refuse to conform to genre conventions they always take unexpected turns. These surprises are deepened by his stylistic approach and creative integrity, which compelled him to perfectionism and an almost literary approach to narrative. He drew inspiration from many other artists and art forms, and he in turn influenced a vast array of other mediums, including film, art, and design. Just as the films themselves reflect the fragmentation of experience, the elements on display—including moving images, film stills, and supplementary objects—constitute a series of fragments that speak to each film as a whole and to the craft of filmmaking.
Though he was not raised in a religious household, through his family—descendants of Eastern European Jews—and neighborhood, Kubrick was immersed in a strongly Jewish context. The West Bronx in the 1920s was where Kubrick first encountered many of the people who would have profound influences on his career, including Marvin Traub, who introduced Kubrick to photography; Alexander Singer, cinematographer for Kubrick’s first film Day of the Fight; Gerald Fried, who composed the score for his first five films; and writer Howard Sackler who wrote an early screenplay for Kubrick. In his essay, “An Alternative New York Jewish Intellectual,” Geoffrey Abrams argues that Kubrick’s engagement with a community of Jewish writers and intellectuals situates him in proximity to the “New York Intellectual Family,” a generation of writers and literary critics for whom “their religious/ethnic heritage had a direct and important influence on their work.” Kubrick’s films deal with, in a grand manner, the concerns of the post-Holocaust world. By presenting this exhibition at The Contemporary Jewish Museum we have the opportunity to explore and encourage dialogue on not only the vast influence Kubrick’s films have had on arts and culture in the twenty-first century, but also on the influence of Kubrick’s Jewishness on his own filmmaking.
This exhibition is organized by the Deutsches Filmmuseum, Frankfurt am Main, Christiane Kubrick and The Stanley Kubrick Archive at University of the Arts London and was organized at The Contemporary Jewish Museum by Anastasia James and featured focused content of his unrealized film projects.
In conjunction with Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition on view at The CJM, the Alamo Drafthouse is showing Kubrick films in color, the YBCA is presenting the film series Kubrick in Black and White, and the SF Symphony is playing 2001: A Space Odyssey with a full orchestra.
Installation images courtesy of the Contemporary Jewish Museum. Photo by JKA Photography
Installation images with people by Gary Sexton Photography