Friday, September 19, 2014

From Joseph Wehrer

George Manupelli, artist, filmmaker and founder of the Ann Arbor Film Festival died peacefully in hospice care in Littleton NH. He was 82.

George was born in Boston’s North End in 1931 but by the age of 12, through the north Bennett Street Industrial School summer caddie program, he was working as a caddy at the Maplewood Country Club in Bethlehem NH. It was and experience that colored his life. Early in the Seventies, the church in Bethlehem that he attended as a caddy was deconsecrated. George bought it in 197? And made it his home and studio. After 40 years of constant art making, his church is a shrine to a truly creative artist.

George studied art at the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston and went on to receive a M.A. and Doctor of Education from Columbia University. While at Columbia he lived in the International House where his roommate was composer Robert Ashley who provided musical scores to his early films as well sound work on his later ones Years later they continued their work together with the ONCE Group.

He taught at Central Michigan University, University of Michigan, York University in Toronto and the San Francisco Art Institute. He was a creative and challenging teacher.  His projects were exploring the edges of the art and students responded with enthusiasm.  Many of his students have gone on to strong careers.

He served as Dean at the San Francisco Art Institute for three lively years where he was popular with students and faculty, but a torment to the administrators. In an effort to boost enrollment, he produced a TV admission commercial featuring Father Guido Sarducci (Don Novello). This very humorous film won a CLEO, the advertising industry’s equivalent of an Oscar.

George founded the Ann Arbor Film Festival in 1963, remaining its director for 17 years. During those years George designed all the announcements, posters and tickets. These became sought after collector’s items for their graphic impact. The AAFF was a key venue for influential filmmakers and artists such as Bruce Bailey, Kenneth Anger, Andy Warhol, Agnes Varda, Robert Breer, Yoko Ono, Gus Van Sant, Lawrence Kasdan, Devo, and George Lucas. When Andy Warhol came to show his films he brought the Velvet Underground with Nico and Gerard Malanga.

During those same years George was one of a small group of artists, composers and architects of the ONCE Group  who staged performance art works in Ann Arbor and on tour performing at Art Museums and Universities. The ONCE Group brought the best of the art world to the city of Ann Arbor, John Cage, The Merce Cunningham Dance Company and the Judson Dance Theatre.

A pioneer in experimental film since 1955, he won international awards including the 1964 Venice and 1965 Sao Paulo Biennials. George won the Avant Garde Film Masters Award in 2007 for his Dr Chicago film trilogy. His many films are preserved at the Anthology Film Archives of New York.

In declining health and failing eyesight, George continued to make and exhibit his art until his death, combining and re-combining objects gleaned from flea markets and antique stores into assemblage sculptures whose iconic juxtapositions and telling titles offered offbeat insights into these “modern times.” Recent exhibitions include a one-man show at the Ella Sharp Museum in Jackson Michigan, and an invitation to screen Dr Chicago at the Thessaloniki International Film Festival, Thessaloniki, Greece.

He is survived by his daughters Aune Manupelli-Hamilton, of Ann Arbor, MI and Ingrid Manupelli of San Francisco, CA, their mother Betty Johnson of San Francisco, CA., his cousin Michael Buckley of Hudson, NH, 4 Grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

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