Celestial Navigations, the first full-length film release from Chicago-based archival record label Numero Group, showcases the short films and animations created in the late 1970s and early 1980s by illustrator Al Jarnow. True to form, Numero Group presents viewers with a carefully researched and compiled catalogue of Jarnow’s stunning body of work, from an animated take on Edward Lear’s poem The Owl and the Pussycat to Jarnow’s first venture into animation and a time-lapse piece compacting one year at his studio into a fifteen minute film, from which Numero Group took the title of their project. Experimental flip book animations detail the journey of a Volkswagon Beetle in several perspectives across highways, country sides and three-dimensional corridors in Autosong. Two particularly cerebral efforts, Cosmic Letter and Cosmic Clock, employ intricate layers of cell drawings to take viewers from Flatbush, Brooklyn to the depths of the universe and from a quiet hillside one billion years into the future, respectively. Not to mention of course, a series of nostalgia-inducing educational shorts which Jarnow produced for universal childhood favorites 3-2-1 Contact and Sesame Street.
Accompanying the collection of short films is a documentary titled Asymmetric Cycles. Featuring interviews and footage from Jarnow’s studio, it provides a unique look at some of the illustrations’ models, objects, flip books, cell drawings and other items used to create the films. The viewer begins to understand the intense depth of Al Jarnow’s creativity as he describes the methods and techniques used to produce certain projects, and talks about his experiences as an artist, illustrator and animator. Also included is a short book containing commentary and essays from Jarnow and his contemporaries, as well as sketches, photos, storyboards and comprehensive notes on each short film.
As expected from the Numero Group, this project has been thoroughly researched and careful attention has been paid to even the smallest detail from production and editing to packaging. And, as expected, the finished product is creative and precise, perfectly suited to the traits and sensibilities of its subject and his work.
—Omar Almufti, 11 May 2010