Eastern Michigan University professor of Asian Art History, Tom Suchan, and Greg Kulon, an independent scholar and cofounder of Sulon films, bring an art collection of famous stop motion animation films to EMU’s Student Center gallery.
Suchan, who has been teaching at EMU for 19 years, has been friends with Kulon since first grade. They have always had a love for monster movies, science fiction and comic books.
In middle school, the pair made their own movies on 8mm film and together created the production company Sulon Films. The name Sulon FIlms is a combination of their last names.
“King Kong at Ninety: Visualization in the Art of stop-motion animation” is a collection of pieces majorly from Kulon's personal collection, and a small amount of pieces loaned by Brigham Young University.
“Visualization is the idea of creativity and planning and like,” Suchan said. “It takes all these very creative people in the film industry to make these movies.”
The exhibit runs from Jan. 23 - Feb. 23 in commemoration of the 90th anniversary of ‘King Kong’ 1933.
Throughly detailed in the show’s visualization pamphlet, the pictures are shown in semi-chronological order to highlight the 1933 ‘King Kong’ and its inspiration. This exhibit also shows the influence this movie had on the stop motion-animation film genre.
The exhibition itself is broken into seven sections: Before King Kong, King Kong, The Son of Kong, Mighty Joe Young, The other films and unfinished projects of Willis H. O’Brien, The films of Ray Harryhausen, and More Recent Stop-Motion Art.
Part one highlights different inspirations for King Kong, part two is how the idea of King Kong came to be, from the mind of Merian C. Cooper and his inspirations, and part three is discussing the sequel quickly after the success of King Kong.
Next, part four highlights the final film of the original King Kong trilogy, part five shows the contributions of Willis O’Brien who brought Kong to life and part six shows the new career of Ray Harryhausen.
Finishing off the exhibition is information on the last line of stop-motion model animators connected with the original King Kong.
Kulon's collection goes back over 50 years, the oldest piece being a 1962 King Kong article form a famous Monsters annual magazine. The artifact was acquired in a trade from Suchan in 1969 and was signed by Forrest J. Ackerman in 1993.
The early behind the scenes of how these films evolved piqued Kulons interest and he began finding unique King Kong artifacts at flea markets. This experience began to drive Kulon’s collection toward the evolution of films and how images helped tell a story.
“To me it’s interesting to watch the evolution from some early artwork concepts to what finally made it to the screen if it did,” Kulon said.
Art throughout the film industry was highly important, creating images that told stories and helped sell products to companies and the public.
“It gives you a whole range of different artistic representational techniques that are used to serve different functions,” Suchan said. “They stand alone as really excellent exceptional art in many cases.”
The idea to make an exhibition of Kulon’s collection was brought up by Suchan. The COVID-19 pandemic and other roadblocks pushed it off awhile, but the exhibit was finally pulled together with a lot of hard work and help from the Student Center gallery staff.
In conjunction with the exhibit, the community is welcomed to view the archives of over 50,000 items related to the film career and personal life of stop-motion artist Ray Harryhausen in the Student Center auditorium on Tuesday, Feb. 7 from 7-8 p.m.
On Wednesday, Feb. 8 from 7-8:30 p.m., guests can attend a key speaker event include Kulon and a panel of other speakers.
Students and community members can visit and view the King Kong exhibit now until Feb. 23.
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