Kes Zapkus painting  Homage to H.M.  in 1975

Kes Zapkus painting Homage to H.M. in 1975



To accompany the exhibit Kes Zapkus: Drawings and Works on Paper 1957 – 2017, Sla307 presents two documentary films by Jerry Gambone

With Paint On Canvas: Kes Zapkus (1980)  (42 minutes)

Leon Polk Smith: Full Circle (2001)  (57 minutes)


With Paint on Canvas: Kes Zapkus (1980) is an intimate study of the work and practice of painter Kes Zapkus. The film reveals a young artist’s intense involvement and ideas at the start and maturation of a creative life. Released by the American Federation of Arts, Film Program and an award winner at the 16th Chicago International Film Festival, it has been shown nationally and internationally at universities, art schools and museums, including The Museum of Modern Art, The Whitney Museum of American Art, The Hirschhorn Museum, The Art Institute of Chicago, The National Gallery of Lithuania, Vilnius, The Hecksher Museum, Carnegie Institute Museum of Art, and Anthology Film Archives.

“To begin with, this is one of two films I know about visual artists that really work. …With Paint on Canvas took four years to make, and in the process came to encompass the creative process of painting in general, as well as an individual’s art. Its success is probably related to the fact that Zapkus’ work is integrally involved with music, which, like film, is an art of time. …Almost nothing in the film is incidental. Although the tone is relaxed and informal, like a visit to the artist’s studio, the underlying structure and philosophy are clear and tight. Its armature is music and silence, with the counterpoint provided by the artist’s effortless monologue. …Gambone’s filmmaking is unpretentious and unobtrusive, leaving plenty of room in its web to expand on the relationships between artist, work and society. … If serious art teaches people how to see, With Paint on Canvas teaches people how to see serious art.”
(Program Notes by Lucy R. Lippard, art critic and writer)

Zapkus is now 78. The drawing exhibit, which this film accompanies, covers 60 years of conceptual and productive activity. This early film documents the sources for his evolving artistic vision which may be traced in this exhibit.

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Leon Polk Smith: Full Circle (2001) is a self-revealing study of the pioneering, American, geometric abstractionist. Born in 1906, Leon Polk Smith spent his long painting career exploring the endless sense of space he first experienced on the Southwest prairie. Coming from Cherokee roots in Oklahoma, the artist found himself moving through the New York City of the 1930’s with its high sophistication, pretense, and intellectual ambitions. In this confrontation, Smith made a life dedicated to Art. His work presaged the Hard-Edge and minimal painting styles of the late 1950’s and 60’s, and is said to have influenced younger artists like Ellsworth Kelly and Jack Youngerman. Smith’s own influences encompassed his appreciation of Mondrian, Brancusi, and Arp. Interviews from 1979, 1983, and 1994, which provide the basic structure of the film, are interwoven with his paintings chronologically presented from 1937 to 1994. The rigorous, non-referential qualities of Smith’s painting may not be easy for the uninitiated to comprehend, but the film makes this material accessible through emotional and visual factors. Leon Polk Smith died in 1996 at age 90.

Leon Polk Smith at The Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery, Lincoln, Nebraska, 1983

Leon Polk Smith at The Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery, Lincoln, Nebraska, 1983

“Gambone’s film is a gift to longtime admirers of Leon Polk Smith’s paintings, and even more so to viewers who are new to his work or struggle with non-objective art. The artist tells his own story – from his birth in Oklahoma’s Indian Territory to his final years in New York City – bringing his work to life along the way. …With the patience of a good teacher and a rare ability to convey the joy, intellectual engagement, and physical process of painting, he takes viewers on an enlightening journey through his artistic evolution.”
(Suzanne Muchnic, former art writer and critic for the Los Angeles Times, correspondent to ARTnews and book author)

Filmmaker and photographer, Jerry Gambone, born in Norristown, Pennsylvania in 1947, studied at Goddard College, Plainfield, Vermont and New York University’s Graduate School of Film and Television. His sole creative focus is now still photography.


Jerry Gambone screening night.  With Paint On Canvas: Kes Zapkus (1980)

Jerry Gambone screening night. With Paint On Canvas: Kes Zapkus (1980)

Leon Polk Smith: Full Circle (2001)

Leon Polk Smith: Full Circle (2001)