SOUTHFIRST 60 North 6th Street  Brooklyn, NY  11211



Of Necessity I Become an Instrument

July 8 Đ August 12, 2016

EXTENDED: September 17 Đ 25, 2016. 


SOUTHFIRST is proud to present Leslie Thornton: ŇOf Necessity I Become an Instrument The exhibition includes three 16mm films made between 1975 - 1981, a newly-transferred Super 8 film from 1974, and two of the artistŐs paintings from the early 1970s, alongside an installation drawn from the artistŐs personal collection. Among the items on view are original notes and letters written by Thornton while studying at SUNY Buffalo and paintings by her grandfather. Together the pieces in the installation, many exhibited for the first time, explore ThorntonŐs developing aesthetic as a painter and avant-garde filmmaker. The show, curated by Maika Pollack, is on view until September 25, 2016. There will be a talk between the artist and Giampaolo Bianconi on July 27.


ŇOf Necessity I Become an InstrumentÓ includes artifacts drawn from ThorntonŐs archive that present a personal, historical and intellectual context from which her work develops. Of significance is her father and grandfatherŐs involvement with the Manhattan Project and her own youth in the Cold War era. Thornton studied painting at SUNY Buffalo, where she worked closely with Paul Sharits and Hollis Frampton through the Department of Media Study. There, she encountered the films of Yvonne Rainer, Jack Smith and Andy Warhol. She made her first film, Face, in 1974Ńit is on view here in a new digital transfer. All of ThorntonŐs early works, including X-TRACTS (1975, 16mm) were shot and edited using diagrammatic, gridded scores as a point of departure; some of these documents are on display. All Right You Guys (1976, 16mm), she writes: Ňhad a pre-determined score, like a musical score, for how I would edit the footage, ignoring the contentÉfor the most part. The result was difficult to watch because it was non-linear, and unfamiliar formally.Ó Though these works parallel practices of structuralist filmmakers, all four early films focus on the representation of women, in which structural filmŐs semiotic precepts intersect with the construction of gender identity. ThorntonŐs early films anticipate later generationsŐ interest in appropriated imagery and the critique of popular culture and official histories. The show also features a pop-up display of Top Stories Five (issue #23-24), edited by Anne Turyn and featuring stories by Constance DeJong, Joe Gibbons, Tama Janowitz, Richard Prince and Thornton.


Leslie Thornton (b. 1951, Oak Ridge, Tennessee) is an artist engaged with film, video, photography and installation. Peggy and Fred in Hell (1983-2016) is widely considered a landmark of avant-garde cinema. ThorntonŐs early film work is currently being archivally restored through the Moving Image Archiving and Preservation (MIAP) program at NYUŐs Tisch School of the Arts, the Pacific Film Archive, and other institutional and private sources. She recently completed They Were Just People (2016), a commission for the Walker Art Center made in response to the work of Bruce Conner. Her collaboration with James Richards, Crossing, will premiere in London in October. She is a professor in the Modern Culture and Media department at Brown University and lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.


SOUTHFIRST, founded in 2000, is located at 60 North 6th Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn between Wythe and Kent Avenues. Subway: L train to Bedford Avenue. For more information, please contact the gallery at 718 599 4884 or