Loose Nut Woody
Woody Woodpecker & The Avant-Garde

Woody Woodpecker & The Avant-Garde

September 22 - November 20, 2016

Amidst the turbulence of the Second World War, fine artists, animators, filmmakers and musicians found a sense of freedom and unexpected sources of inspiration in Los Angeles. The American Contemporary Gallery in Hollywood was a gathering place for a creative community that came to see the latest art exhibition and attend weekly screenings of classic and avant-garde films. Among the attendees was a young director named Shamus Culhane, who began to experiment at Walter Lantz Productions, bringing surprising avant-garde artistic references and film techniques into mainstream animated Woody Woodpecker films. The results brought Woody Woodpecker to his peak as a brazen character, embodying the shifting tenor of early 1940s cartoons.

Woody Woodpecker & The Avant-Garde, opening Sept. 22 at Loyola Marymount University's Laband Art Gallery, will reflect this unlikely collision of people, art forms, political beliefs and wartime efforts. Varied elements of Shamus Culhane's creative inspiration and production will be explored in the exhibition. Paintings and watercolors by artists Jules Engel, Oskar Fischinger, Lorser Feiltelson, Knud Merrild, and Byron Randall, which Culhane likely saw at the American Contemporary Gallery in the 1940s, will be presented. Similarly, there will be an ongoing screening of avant-garde films by Man Ray, Maya Deren, Oskar Fischinger and Mary Ellen Bute. The exhibition will offer focused studies of several 1940s films from Walter Lantz Productions including The Loose Nut and the military training film The Enemy Bacteria. Culhane's and his colleagues' working methods will be highlighted through the presentation of materials such as story boards, animation cels, model sheets, and character studies. HD transfers of Culhane's innovative film experiments are being made especially for this exhibition. The exhibition also marks the first presentation of paintings by Northern California artist Byron Randall since the 1940s.

This exhibition is co-organized by LMU's School of Film and Television, College of Communication and Fine Arts, and Laband Art Gallery with generous cooperation from Universal Studios. 


The Secret Life of Woody Woodpecker by Brian Welk in The Argonaut
Woody Woodpecker Cartoons Were More Subversive Than You Thought
by Gwynedd Stuart in LA Weekly 
Read Amid Amidi's review of the exhibition on Cartoon Brew


Tom Klein on the Hidden Films in Woody Woodpecker Cartoons

Related Programs

Gallery Walkthrough with Curator Tom Klein and Opening Reception

Thursday, September 22, 2016, 3-6pm
Walkthrough (3pm) Opening Reception (4-6pm)

LMU Chair of Animation and Curator of the exhibition led a walkthrough of the exhibition followed by an opening reception.

Talk: Professor Nigel Raab, Learning from Each Other, Early Soviet & American Film

Tuesday, October 4, 9-10am
Communication Arts, Mayer Theater

Stretching Time: A Slow Arts Festival

Animation, music, dance and food at a slower pace.
Saturday, October 8, 4-7pm
Burns Fine Arts Complex

This event is co-organized by the Bellarmine Forum and the Laband Art Gallery.

Talk: David E. James, Avant-Garde Film in Los Angeles in the Early 1940s

Thursday October 20, 2016, 7pm
LMU, Animation Drawing Room, Communication Arts Building, Room 310

USC Professor David E. James discussed his book The Most Typical Avant-Garde: History and Geography of Minor Cinemas in Los Angeles (2006).