Artists Space

The Films of Bill Gunn

Friday, June 11 – Thursday, July 1

A black-and-white photograph of a group of men shooting a scene on an outdoor film set. They are surrounded by trees and grass.
Bill Gunn and Duane Jones on the set of Ganja & Hess. Image courtesy Tom Cummings. [A black-and-white photograph of a group of men shooting a scene on an outdoor film set. They are surrounded by trees and grass.]

Artists Space presents three consecutive week-long screenings celebrating Bill Gunn as a filmmaker, screenwriter and actor. The program will include two films directed by Gunn, Ganja and Hess (1973) and the two-part teleseries Personal Problems (1980), and Kathleen Collin's Losing Ground (1982), in which Gunn stars.

All films will be available on Artists Space's website, and co-presented with partner venues Maysles Documentary Center, The Luminal Theater and Light Industry. Special guest information is forthcoming.

June 11, 2021

Personal Problems

June 18, 2021

Ganja & Hess

June 25, 2021

Losing Ground

Bill Gunn began his career in the 1950s as a stage actor, making his Broadway debut in The Immoralist (1954) with James Dean. He wrote his first play, Marcus in the High Grass, in 1959. He entered the film and television world as an actor in the 1960s with roles on many series including The Fugitive (1965) and Outer Limits (1963). A prolific screenwriter, he was commissioned to write The Landlord (1970), adapted from the novel by Kristen Hunter and directed by Hal Ashby, and The Angel Levine (1970), adapted from a story by Bernard Malamud and directed by Ján Kadár. His many unproduced screenwriting credits include: Fame Game (1968) and Don’t the Moon Look Lonesome (1970). One of the first Black filmmakers to direct a film for a major Hollywood studio, Gunn made Stop! in 1970, which remains to this day unreleased by Warner Bros. He went on to direct the masterpiece Ganja & Hess (1973) and the conceived for television series Personal Problems (1980) in collaboration with Ishmael Reed and Steve Cannon. His most notable screen role as an actor was in Kathleen Collins’ Losing Ground (1982). His teleplay Johnnas, produced for NBC, received an Emmy Award in 1972. Gunn’s theatrical productions include his plays Celebration (1967), Black Picture Show (1975), the musical Rhinestone (1982), and The Forbidden City (1989). Bill Gunn died in 1989 at the age of 59, the day before the premiere of his final play The Forbidden City at the Public Theater.

Program support for Artists Space is provided by The Friends of Artists Space, Lambent Foundation Fund of Tides Foundation, The Cowles Charitable Trust, The Cy Twombly Foundation, The David Teiger Foundation, The Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, The New York Community Trust, The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, The New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, The Stavros Niarchos Foundation, The Willem de Kooning Foundation, The Danielson Foundation, The Fox Aarons Foundation, Herman Goldman Foundation, The Destina Foundation, The Luce Foundation, May and Samuel Rudin Family Foundation, The Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation, VIA Art Fund, Arison Arts Foundation, The Chicago Community Fund, The David Rockefeller Fund, The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Foundation, The Jill and Peter Kraus Foundation, The Richard Pousette-Dart Foundation.