Join UNLV’s Marjorie Barrick Museum all summer long for Jerry Lewis’s Painted Pictures exhibition. This unique peek into the genius behind Jerry Lewis offers both a sampling of some unique abstract photography of Jerry Lewis along with his films and documentaries about his life. The photography was shot during the 1950’s, 1960’s, and 1970’s. Jerry Lewis is giving back to the community of Las Vegas which brought him such success and notoriety. The museum offers a look see into the inner workings of this comic legend.
With a couple of visits, I have seen both “The Bellboy,” “The King of Comedy,” and two documentaries about his life (“Method to the Madness of Jerry Lewis” and “Jerry Lewis: The Last American Clown”). In “The Bellboy,” this is a complete nod to the silent film era of slap stick as there is a cameo appearance by Stan Laurel from Laurel and Hardy. Neither the bellboy nor Laurel speak. The range of characters Jerry Lewis has played over his lifetime is staggering. Just by seeing these two films again, one can get a feel for how gifted he has been. Jerry Seinfeld is noted in one documentary as saying “If one can make a car drive funny, then this is just pure genius.” Ironically, Seinfeld has a new show “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.” Seinfeld also said, “comedy is math plus music.” Eddie Murphy said of Jerry Lewis, “he is both sweet and funny.”
As well as being famous for his movies, he has always carried a camera by his side, thus the point of this exhibit. No point in keeping photos stuffed in a shoe box when there is so much to share. Most of Jerry Lewis’s notable photography is of his star powered friends to include Dean Martin. Painted Pictures offers something minus all of the stars and people who have been in his life. This is about the choreography of light. Where better to take abstracted views of light, than in the City of Lights, Las Vegas. A great deal of the photography was taken in Las Vegas. Other photography was taken in Mexico City, Trafalgar of London, Paris and countless other locations.
One series, which is an anomaly because there is a person in it, is a true study in light. Jerry Lewis had all sorts of colored bulbs strung up in a studio. Then with his camera he began dragging at different exposures to get different effects. Some images look like morse code with straight dragging from left to right. Other photos look like an out of focus candy jar. Why not? Is everything in life that sharply in focus? Does one really recall every exact moment as sharply as it just happened a few minutes ago?
Jerry Lewis had a bad fall at the Sands Hotel in 1965. For thirteen years, he was on percodan. From 1974 to 1978, Jerry Lewis was on thirteen percodans a day. He has said in a documentary that these years are dead to him. He has no memory of them. Since 1978, he has not taken one percodan. The film grade and prints of the images produced suggest years close to these years. Maybe the images show what he cannot remember. Another set of striking images were his choreographed blurred signature type look of a traffic light with the word “stop.” Maybe he was trying to tell himself something through pictures or maybe this is just an image about time in that the word stop is no longer used in traffic lights of today. They are Painted Pictures and may the beauty be in the eye of the beholder. You are a good man Jerry Lewis and we all thank you for your work and works.
“As long as there is light and color I can create. I saw in the camera what I wanted. The still pictures where there and then I gave them a degree of action. I considered myself a person who goes along with what my creative process tells me to do…. There is so much you can find out about life through photography, so much you can discover. There’s so much more to test-that’s my point of view.” Jerry Lewis, 2014
The exhibit from start to finish runs from May 9 to Sept 27, 2014. The film festival runs from May 15 to Sept 17, 2014. Suggested voluntary contribution of $5.00 for adults and $2.00 for children and seniors. The Marjorie Barrack Museum is located at 4505 S Maryland Pkwy, Las Vegas, NV 89154. For more information, call Alisha Kerlin Collection Manager at 702-895-3381.