Art, Politics and Animation Collide at Laband’s Woody Woodpecker and the Avant-Garde

Take a close look at the 1945 Woody Woodpecker cartoon, The Loose Nut, and you’ll see something curious in the action scenes. What are those jagged shapes and flashes of color across the screen? Where did they come from?

Woody Woodpecker and the Avant-Garde – opening Thursday, Sept. 22 at Loyola Marymount University’s Laband Art Gallery – explores the artwork hidden between frames of World War II-era Woody cartoons. A young director at Walter Lantz Productions named Shamus Culhane was inspired by avant-garde artists and filmmakers of that time, bringing surprising modernist artistic references into mainstream animated Woody films.

The exhibition displays varied elements of Culhane’s creative inspiration – paintings and watercolors by Jules Engel, Oskar Fischinger, Lorser Feitelson, Knud Merrild and Byron Randall – and an ongoing screening of avant-garde films by Man Ray, Maya Deren, Oskar Fischinger and Mary Ellen Bute. It also offers studies of several 1940s films from Walter Lantz Productions, including The Loose Nut and The Enemy Bacteria, and the first presentation since the 1940s of paintings by Northern California artist Byron Randall.

Woody Woodpecker and the Avant-Garde celebrates a landmark gift to LMU’s School of Film and Television from the Walter Lantz Foundation. In addition, the foundation has committed several works of art that will be on view.

WHAT: Woody Woodpecker and the Avant-Garde

WHERE: Laband Art Gallery, 1 LMU Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90045

WHEN: Opens at 3 p.m. Sept. 22 with a walkthrough by LMU SFTV Animation Chair and Curator Tom Klein, followed by a 4-6 p.m. reception. The exhibit runs through Nov. 20.