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Chicago, Illinois 60616
(312) 243-1808

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Larry Janiak Collection

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Collection Identifier: C.2013-01
Preservation Sponsor: National Film Preservation Foundation
Extent of collection
36 reels of 16mm film prints and elements; 1 VHS videocassette; 1 audiocassette; 2 boxes of papers and ephemera
Inclusive Dates
1960 - 1999
Bulk Dates
1960 - 1970
The Larry Janiak Collection contains experimental films and documentaries made by Chicago filmmaker, animator, and designer, Larry Janiak. The experimental films in the collection consist of direct animated works (DL1, DL2) and a handful of abstract short films, or "sketches," made by Janiak between the years 1960 and 1970. Also included in the collection are three documentary works. Two of these documentaries depict structures and ceremonies of the Vivekananda Vedanta Society of Chicago (Hale House, Vedanta Temple Dedication Ceremony), while the third documents Janiak's time as an animation instructor at the Institute of Design (Animation Film Making: A Teaching Method at the Institute of Design in Chicago 1968 to 1980). The collection also contains two boxes of books, personal papers and various ephemera, including two Chicago International Film Festival Hugo awards, various books on underground film & animation, graphic design samples by Janiak and three Center Cinema Co-op distribution catalogs designed by Janiak.
Janiak, Larry (was created by)
Lawrence (Larry) Janiak is a Chicago-based filmmaker, animator and designer with strong ties to the Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology, Goldsholl Design & Film Associates and the Vivekananda Vedanta Society of Chicago.

Larry was born on February 15, 1938 at St. Anthony de Padua Hospital on the southwest side of Chicago. At the age of six, Larry and his family moved to Pioneer Avenue on the northwest side of Chicago.

From 1944 to 1950 Larry attended Saint Priscilla Roman Catholic Grammar school on Chicago's north side. Although there were no scheduled art classes during the school week, young Franciscan nuns encouraged Larry's creative talents and taught him a few basic techniques in drawing and colored tempera painting. During the last few years of grammar school, the nuns had Larry draw large, realistic pictures of Saint Francis, Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary and other spiritual figures for religious events and holy days at the school.

From 1951 to 1955 Larry attended Lane Technical Vocational Public High School, a Chicago Public High School located in the North Center neighborhood on Chicago's north side. While enrolled at the high school Janiak helped to create two animated films, the first such films ever made by students in the Chicago Board of Education system. Along with fellow Lane Tech students Ron Larson and Wayne Boyer, the three made an 8mm animated color film called Dittlwitt's Ectoplasm. During their last year at Lane Tech, the students teamed up again to make a second animated color film titled Conquest of Elements. The students' films were well received at the school and by the Board of Education Art Supervisor. As a result of the films internal success and the overall excitement and novelty surrounding their production, the three students appeared on Chicago television shows, were written about in Chicago newspapers, presented their films and spoke at film screenings around the United States and were even invited to meet Walt Disney in California.

After graduating high school, Larry studied at the Institute of Design at I.I.T. (1955-1956, 1958-1959) and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (1956-1958). As a student at the Institute of Design, Larry studied still photography with Aaron Siskind and Harry Calahan, workshop techniques with Ray Pearson, sculpture with Cosmo Campoli, fundamentals of design with Eugene Dana, visual design with Richard Koppie, printmaking as art with Misch Kohn, Typographic design with Gordon Martin and visual flow projects with Eugene Dana. Larry transferred to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago to study painting and drawing for two years and then returned to the Institute of Design in September of 1958 to specialize in visual design.

While a student at the Institute of Design, Larry worked for the Richard Kliedon Animation Studio in Chicago from 1956 to 1959. At the studio Larry worked on cartoon animation sequences, technical animation for U.S. Air Force training films, medical film illustration animation and animation for industrial films and television spot commercials.

In 1959 Larry and fellow filmmaker and Lane Tech alum, Wayne Boyer, met Mort and Millie Goldsholl (of the Chicago-based design firm, Goldsholl Design & Film Associates) at the International Design Conference in Aspen, Colorado. After seeing their experimental films at the conference, Mort and Millie offered them both staff positions at their design firm's newly formed filmmaking department. Larry worked at the firm from 1959 to 1962 and from 1964 to 1967. While at the firm, Larry worked on nearly every aspect of commercial film production and design. He created idea sketches, storyboard drawings, illustrations, cartoon and graphic design animation and diagramed camera movements for graphic or photographic art sequences.

Larry was employed by Goldsholl Design & Film Associates before and after being drafted into the U.S. Army from 1962 to 1964. His military service consisted of work as the Art Director of WFM-TV, an educational television station of the U.S. Army Signal Corps Signal School and Communication Research Center located in Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. Along with other draftees, Larry produced many instructional and educational tv programs for the station, including a daily news show covering local, national and world events. As Art Director, Larry produced set designs, illustrations, cartoons, graphic designs as well as type and logo designs. Larry was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army on March 4, 1964, as a specialist E-4, and returned to Chicago, where he resumed work at Goldsholl Design & Film Associates.

In 1968, Larry left Goldsholl Associates to begin teaching at the Institute of Design. Aaron Siskind hired Larry to start an experimental live action and animated film area at the school's photography department. From 1968 to 1980, Larry developed and taught design animation and experimental filmmaking courses at the school for both undergraduate and graduate students. Larry also briefly taught Visual Design courses to incoming freshmen at Columbia College from 1981 to 1982.

From 1967 to 1983 Larry also worked freelance as a commercial animator and designer. Larry worked professionally in a Chicago storefront at Broadway and Addison, where he had a graphics arts workshop, a film editing and film projection area and a complete photographic darkroom. Additionally, from 1967 to 1969 Larry and his friend, Robert Stiegler, set up a film and photography workshop in a large loft space on Chicago's Sheffield Street near Belmont Avenue. The loft workshop became a production facility for filmmakers in the Chicago area and host of numerous informal film screenings and discussions from local and visiting artists. Some of the filmmakers and artists who visited or participated in film screenings at the space included Mike Kuchar, David Katzive, Jon Jost, Red Grooms, Ron Nameth, Kurt Heyl, Peter Kuttner, Peter Kubelka, Strom de Hirsch, Jonas Mekas and the filmmakers of the Chicago Newsreel film group.

In 1968 Larry became a founding member of the Center for Cinema Film Co-op, an artist run film co-op located at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. Larry was elected to the first board of directors along with Ron Nameth and Tom Palazzolo. The Co-op was a non-profit organization managed and run by the film artists themselves. Its aim was to serve as a focus for independent film and filmmakers in the Midwest and to function as a distribution center for the rental of their films. The Co-op represented over 175 independent experimental filmmakers, with over 400 unique films in the Co-op's distribution collection. The Co-op lasted for ten years and was legally disbanded in 1978.

In 1977 Larry founded Zoetrope, an experimental publication devoted to new wave design, animation, video, film, photography, media arts and the evolving American cultural scene. Larry acted as design director and publisher for the paper, which was produced by a small group of dedicated Chicago artists and designers who donated their time, talent and energy to the production. The paper ran until 1980, with a total of 8 issues altogether. Zoetrope's dedicated volunteers printed and distributed 15,000 copies of each issue in the Chicago area. Copies of the last three issues were also distributed in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Larry has belonged to the Vivekananda Vedanta Society of Chicago since 1965. The Vivekananda Vedanta Society of Chicago is a branch of the Hindu Ramakrishna Order with headquarters at Belur Math in Calcutta, India. The historical roots of the society can be traced back to Swami Vivekananda’s visit to Chicago in July of 1893 to attend the World’s Parliament of Religions. Janiak has created several films for the Vedanta Society, including Hale House, a 1965 film documenting the society's former headquarters at a Chicago mansion. From 1983 to 1990 Larry lived at the society's temple and monastery in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood as a "spiritual resident," joining a group of American swamis, young brahmacharis and other spiritual residents. During this time Larry gave himself a sabbatical from commercial film production, visual design work and university teaching.

Larry has been making experimental films as a means of personal and aesthetic expression since 1953. His filmmaking techniques include live action film and visual experiments in abstract image making by direct chemical manipulation of the film emulsion and scratching or drawing images directly on the film surface itself. Larry fell in love with film when he was very young, inside such Chicago movie houses as the Atlantic Theater (3948 W. 26th Street) and later at the second run Clark Theater (11 N. Clark Street). As a student at Lane Tech he was exposed to the animated abstract films of Oscar Fischinger, the dynamic films of Len Lye and the beautiful and exciting films of Norman McLaren. This exposure to experimental works directly inspired Larry to start making his own films while in high school and beyond. Although Larry hasn’t completed a new film in decades, he continues his conceptual art practice today through various mediums, such as collage, poetry and drawing.

Six Short Statements on My Film Sense (Larry Janiak, 1975):
1. "Making film is to me what I might imagine composing opera was to Mozart."
2. "I made my first film at the age of 15; Mozart started earlier, fortunately."
3. "Film is the most plastic and comprehensive communication form in the arts."
4. "Filmmaking is an act of self-discovery which defines our cultural maturity."
5. "Pure film, when experiences as a deep human exchange, is a spiritual event."
6. "Drawing directly on film, when approached calmly, reveals the universe."

Allegro (1960, Color, Sound, 16mm., 3 min.)
DL #1 (Disintegration Line #1) (1960, B&W, Silent, 16mm., 9 min.)
Adams Film (1963, Color, Sound, 16mm., 9 min.)
Glasshouse (1964, B&W, Sound, 16mm., 7 min.)
Agamemnon in New York (1964, B&W, Sound, 16mm., 5 min.)
Life & Film (1965, B&W, Sound, 16mm., 5 min.)
Hale House (1965, B&W, Sound, 16mm., 11 min.)
Vedanta Temple Dedication Day Ceremony (1966, B&W, Sound, 16mm., 30 min.)
DL #2 (Disintegration Line #2) (1970, Color, Sound, 16mm., 12 min.)
Homage #5 (1970, Color, Sound, 16mm., 6 min.)
Animation Film Making: A Teaching Method at the Institute of Design in Chicago 1968 to 1980 (1999, B&W, Sound, VHS, 18 min.)
Custodial History
The Larry Janiak Collection of films and ephemera was previously stored by Janiak in his Hyde Park apartment. Janiak donated his collection to CFA in two parts, once in April of 2013 and again in October of 2013.
Language of Materials
Access Restrictions
This collection is open to on-site access. Appointments must be made with Chicago Film Archives. Due to the fragile nature of the films, only video copies will be provided for on-site viewing.
Use Restrictions
Chicago Film Archives holds the copyright for the films in this collection
Related Materials
CFA's Mort & Millie Goldsholl Collection contains a print of Disintegration Line #1 as well as numerous sponsored films Larry worked on while he was employed at Goldsholl Design & Film Associates
Janiak, Larry